First Look: Inside Museum of Art’s life-size Barbie Dream House


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — On the fashionable heels of her 60th birthday, the Birmingham Museum of Art has decided to honor an icon: Barbara Millicent Roberts, known to many as “Barbie.”

“We wanted to think about Barbie’s legacy and how her figure and form and her status as an icon has been interpreted by artists,” said Hallie Ringle, Hugh Kaul Curator of Contemporary Art at the Birmingham Museum of Art.

The exhibit, “Barbie: Dreaming of a Female Future,” will literally make patrons feel as though they are Barbie, by granting them access to 740 square feet of gallery space that has been reimagined as a modern Barbie Dream House. The people behind the exhibit are hopeful that patrons will spend a lot of time making themselves at home in the space.

“All of the objects on view here are made by women with the exception of one piece, which is a photograph by a male artist,” Ringle said.

Those pieces have many layers to them that could be lost on people who just breeze through the exhibit.

“They’re looking at women’s labor,” said Ringle, who brought up the rhinestone wallpaper as an example. “This is a basket-weave pattern. That’s a quilt-making pattern,” she said of another mural made solely of multi-colored Barbie shoes.

Ringle said the exhibit is intended to allow people to explore their own complicated relationships with the doll.

“Her body was literally unattainable. She was enforcing some very narrow standards of beauty,” she said. “But at the same time, Barbie told us we could have different careers: astronaut, president! She’s been telling young girls to dream bigger and better–and for things that women typically haven’t been told to dream of [getting].”

The exhibit doesn’t feature the dolls or the fashion of Barbie, but rather how Barbie might exist today.

“She didn’t exist for Ken. She didn’t exist for GI Joe. She was, very much, her own woman–and created her own spaces.”

The exhibit will premiere this Friday at Art on the Rocks and it will remain open through Jan. 26.

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