Pharrell Williams turns his attention to art with urban vinyl exhibition

Posted on 28 November 2013
By Jade-Elizabeth Masters
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Super Producer Pharrell Williams is turning his attention to the art world for a special exhibition celebrating vinyl toys.

The Blurred Lines rapper is guest curator of the upcoming show called This Is Not A Toy – set to launch at a gallery in Toronto, Canada next February.

This Is Not A Toy will display a vast array of Urban Vinyl, a genre of ‘toys, that are not toys’ which lie at the intersection of art and product.

With roots in 1980s graffiti culture, the subversive and cult-like art form is still relatively unknown.

Pharrell has pledged to donate his time to support the exhibition and raise awareness, even donating pieces from his personal collection for the duration of the show.

The toys are highly collectible objects, often selling from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars.

The exhibition takes its name from the disclaimer found on packaging for items that may be called toys, but aren’t meant for play and may be harmful to children .

It also references Rene Magritte’s seminal surrealist painting Ceci n’est pas une pipe and the Duchampian notion of what constitutes art.

Designed like a “dreamland”, the exhibition will be made up of life-size pieces, video projection, interactive installations and plush pieces for visitors to play with.

Largely ignored by public galleries and museums, this will be the world’s first large-scale exhibition dedicated to urban vinyl as contemporary art.

It’s also set to feature a vast range of figures from miniatures to freestanding, life-size pieces.

Work from some of the most prolific toy designers in urban vinyl will make up the collection, with pieces from KAWS, Takashi Murakami, Yoshitomo Nara, FriendsWithYou, Huck Gee, Coarse, Frank Kozik, Misaki Kawai, Doma, Bill McMullen.

Shauna Levy, President of the hosting gallery, DX, said: “Pharrell personifies this century’s renaissance man. His influence on music, fashion, design and contemporary art is profound.

“From penning and performing 2013’s hottest songs to the furniture he designed for Emmanuel Perrotin Gallery, to his BBC/Ice Cream streetwear, he is truly ubiquitous.

“But it was his amorous relationship with urban vinyl and contemporary art that precipitated this collaboration with the DX.”

Pharrell said: “Many people know that I love and collect art, but not many know that I collect vinyl and urban art toys.

“I still remember the first time I saw a designer toy. It was crazy – it feels like you’re a kid, but you’re much older. That’s what those toys do for me personally.

“It also opened my eyes to other kinds of art – artists like Murakami, Jeff Koons, KAWS, and other art forms like architecture and design – it’s like a crazy portal.

“The awareness of art and design has lead me to some of my best collaborations. It’s changed my life and I’ve learned so much from it .

“That’s what art’s about – seeing and experiencing things in a different way.”

This Is Not A Toy is scheduled for display from February 7th to May 18th 2014 at the Design Exchange in Toronto.