An Exhibition of Contemporary Art + Collectible Design
Celebrate the World's First Large-Scale Exhibition Dedicated to Designer Toys at the Design Exchange

This Is Not a Toy at Canada's Design Museum, Design Exchange, featuring Better Knowing by KAWS


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - TORONTO, Canada - February 7, 2014 - Design Exchange (DX), Canada's Design Museum, is proud to present a series of firsts with its playful, unprecedented exhibition This Is Not A Toy, guest curated by music and fashion mogul Pharrell Williams. The first major original programming produced by DX. The first foray into museum curation for cultural connector Williams. The first time coveted artists, Brooklyn's KAWS and Japan's Takashi Murakami, have shown their work in a design museum. Dedicated to exploring the conceptual toy - a form made solely as an expression of an aesthetic or idea - as a fine art and design object, as well as a contemporary cultural signifier, This Is Not A Toy marks the first time these vibrant collectible sculptures, figures and paintings have collectively been on display in a museum setting.   


On view from February 7 until May 19, 2014, the exhibition takes its name from the disclaimer found on packaging for objects that may be called toys, but aren't meant for play. Ranging in price from just a few dollars to thousands more, these figures are part merchandise, part art. While the creators of these art toys may utilize technical methods of mass production, they do so in a way that produces variation, unique expression, and limited edition objects. Instigator and co-curator John Wee Tom and DX Associate Curator Sara Nickelson, along with Williams, present a tightly-edited presentation of work from over a dozen of the most prolific toy designers and contemporary fine artists in the collectibles category.


The Simple Things by Takashi Murakami and Pharrell Williams*; Bubble Bench by Misaki Kawai


This Is Not A Toy transforms DX's Exhibition Hall into a candy-coloured space evoking genuine happiness through exuberant, imaginative works. Visitors absorb a multi-faceted sensory experience, as they are immersed in a vibrant world filled with music, video, and vinyl via iPad Air, iPad mini with Retina display and iMac. Listen to in-depth interviews with artists such as KAWS, Huck Gee and Frank Kozik, see stop-motion videos created by fans of Kidrobot figures, and get an exclusive look at how vinyl toys are made and customized. The showstopper, The Simple Things, is a striking sculpture created by a trio of trailblazing creatives: Williams, Murakami and Jacob Arabo, a.k.a. "Jacob the Jeweler". The fiberglass, metal and steel head features a wide grin that reveals blinged-out ordinary objects, including a Pepsi can, a cupcake, and a Heinz ketchup bottle. First unveiled during Art Basel in 2009, The Simple Things has been exhibited at London's Tate Museum, Paris' Chateau de Versailles, Qatar's Museum of Islamic Art, and now, Toronto's Design Exchange.  

Among the
full spectrum of paintings and sculptures on view are: FriendsWithYou's animated short film Cloudy and custom Rainbow Vortex; Misaki Kawai's tactile, comb-able animal-shaped fur paintings; and prized items from Williams' personal art collection, including Milo on Rocking Horse by Japanese fashion label A Bathing Ape; Be@rbrick representations of his Grammy-winning partners Daft Punk; and commissioned KAWS paintings that poke at pop culture, aptly named KAWSBOB 3 and KURFS (CROWD). Toronto's art and design shop, Magic Pony, presents Pon Pon Pony Jam, featuring multifarious characters in their envisioned natural environment from international artists Devilrobots (JP), James Jarvis (UK), Junko Mizuno (JP), Michael Lau (HK), Nathan Jurevicius (AUS) and Pete Fowler (UK). This diverse group of creators is recognized as discernible pioneers within the designer toy field, communicating their visual philosophies through the unconventional medium of the art toy. Other contributing artists include Veteran neo-pop artist, Yoshitomo Nara, Huck Gee, Coarse, Frank Kozik, and Bill McMullen.

Rainbow Vortex by FriendsWithYou; Master Control & Carne by DOMA alongside FriendsWithYou's Cloudy, an animated short film, & Misaki Kawai's Pink Arty
"The title of the exhibition, This is Not a Toy, is important to us since we never set out to make toys, we make purposeful sculptures and experiential art. We are extremely honoured to be a part of this exhibition, especially alongside artists like Murakami and KAWS, because their work resembles toys but they have much broader concepts. We want to speak to people through fine artwork and animism, for the purpose of helping people, healing people and self-empowerment." - Samuel Albert Borkson and Arturo Sandoval III, FriendsWithYou


With its origins in 80s and 90s graffiti culture, the small release toy is an underground art form that at once represents rebellion and playfulness. At the same time a product of consumer culture and a defensible piece of art, these works both reject and appropriate familiar consumer imagery, and manipulate household names, cartoons and cultural icons. The result is a powerful one, shifting control from brand to artist and finally, to consumer. Some artists manipulate and leverage familiar visual communication as tribute or provocation, while others create their own original forms, characters and worlds to convey their ideas of a more affected existence.


This Is Not A Toy is on display at the Design Exchange from Friday, February 7th to Monday, May 19th, 2014.


Additional web resolution images available HERE.


TWEET THIS: Dive into the dream world of designer toys & fine art! #ThisIsNotAToy launches today at the @DesignExchange. Tickets:  





Looking both to the past and present as an assessment of the genre's growth, this one-of-a-kind custom chronicle of This Is Not A Toy features a diverse selection of artwork and commentary from the curators.In-depth essays and interviews from contributors including superstar Pharrell Williams, Canadian artist and novelist Douglas Coupland, Founder of KidRobot Paul Budnitz, and Toronto Star art critic Murray Whyte touch on topics of aesthetics and concept, toys as commercial products of the contemporary art world, collector culture, and the objects and influences that have collided to manifest the designer toy into existence. The special edition insert will show photographs and content specific to the exhibition.


Julie Moon; Jeremy Laing; Bruno Billio; Sid Lee Collective; Doublenaut 



10 of Canada's best art and design talents have been recruited by the DX to customize single edition 18" Mega MUNNYs. See creations by Jeremy Laing, who hand-applied scraps of pin-stripe linen to create a fluffy figure; Doublenaut embellished their doll with iconic motifs and symbols; and Rhed 3D-printed 210 indigo-hued components and assembled them by hand in the likeness of a MUNNY. Other participating artists and designers include Castor Design, Bruno Billio, Blok Design, Sid Lee Collective, Bruce Mau Design, Julie Moon, and Team Macho.



Love the toys? Take the magic home by visiting Magic Pony's pop-up shop in the DX Lobby. As Toronto's original designer toy store, Magic Pony creates a unique art experience store for museum visitors with a curated selection of designer toys, fashion, and art products, and limited edition goods.



Two parties for one price! Presented by INK Entertainment, Design Exchange will host a series of Thursday night events, from 6 to 9pm. Unwind at the museum with a complimentary signature TAG Vodka cocktail and delectable treats. Each of the four events will host interactive activities (think: DIY Kidrobot MUNNY customization stations). Continue the fun at your second stop, the after party hosted by INK Entertainment


On February 26, digital landscape artist Alex McLeod leads a tour of the outstanding contemporary sculptures, figurines and artworks on display created by international artists including Takashi MurakamiKAWS, and FriendsWithYou. Meanwhile, DJ's Body Interface spin beats and local design shop Magic Pony turns nails into canvases with its Nail Art by Artists drop-in. Admission to This Is Not A Work Party includes entrance to the after party at INK Entertainment's CUBE Nightclub (314 Queen Street West, Toronto). 


Dates: Wednesday, February 26th, March 26th, April 23rd, May 14th

Time: 6pm to 9pm

Tickets: $18 (including one complimentary beverage)



Held once a month over the duration of This Is Not A Toy, Family Sunday invites parents and children to explore and engage with the wildly playful exhibit. Children can follow the exhibition activity book, create bespoke Kidrobot MUNNYs, dress up in fashion facemasks and personal accessories inspired by the designer toys on display, and get in line for an exclusive This Is Not A Toy face paint design by artist Jennie Suddick. The entire experience is not only made memorable by guided exhibition tours, but with an exhibition-themed photobooth!


Dates: Sunday, February 9th, March 2th, & April 13th

Time: 12pm to 4pm

Tickets: Free with museum admission or Family Passes can be purchased for $37




Cool and Collected

10 panelists, including gallerist Daniel Faria, designer Joyce Lo and artist Micah Lexier, deliver rapid-fire presentations on the art of collecting everything from rare Americana finds and one-of-a-kind furnishings to tiny curiosities and contemporary art.


Date:Tuesday, April 1st

Time: 6:30pm

Tickets: $16; $8 for DX members





Established in 1994, the Design Exchange (DX) is Canada's only museum dedicated exclusively to the pursuit of design excellence and preservation of design heritage. At a crossroads of multiple disciplines, from furniture and architecture to graphics and fashion, DX exhibitions and talks are curated to reflect the popular zeitgeist and contemporary culture, while demonstrating the relevancy and importance of design to everyday life. Under the leadership of President, Shauna Levy, and a renewed strategic vision beginning March 2012, the DX has hosted renowned traveling exhibitions from prestigious cultural institutions across the globe, including Stefan Sagmeister's The Happy Show from the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia and the Christian Louboutin retrospective from Design Museum London. Educating and awareness-building from its downtown Toronto location in the historic and original Toronto Stock Exchange building, the non-profit charity attracts thousands of visitors of all ages each year.



T:          @DesignExchange 

F:          Design Exchange

I:           DesignExchange



Design Exchange
 234 Bay Street, Toronto ON, M5K 1B2



Monday to Wednesday - 10am to 5pm

Thursday - 10am to 8pm

Friday and Saturday - 10am to 5pm

Sunday - 12pm to 5pm



DX Member Admission: $8

General Admission: $16

Student & Senior Admission: $13

Family Pass: $37

Kids 6 and under: Free


Exhibition tickets are available for purchase via




Interview requests, information and images, contact Faulhaber Communications: 416.504.0768 

Lexi Pathak,  

Jillian Lockwood,


*From the collection of Adriana Abascal and Cathy Vedovi �2009 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights