Happiness is Pharrell’s Toronto exhibit


Some of the “art toys” on display at the DX Museum are from Pharrell Williams’ personal collection. The exhibit closes on May 19, 2014. (Arash Moallemi photos)

Story by Sandra Williams-Herve
Vacay.ca Writer


Is this a toy? That’s one of the questions you’ll ponder when you visit the “This Is Not a Toy” exhibit in Toronto.

TORONTO, ONTARIO — If you think toys are just for kids, you’ve got it all wrong. Young and old alike can appreciate the physical properties of an art toy. Although, just as the title, This is Not a Toy, indicates, the latest exhibit at the Toronto Design Exchange isn’t geared towards children.

Designer toys are said to have first appeared in Hong Kong in the late 1990s and quickly became sought-after items by graffiti artists from all over the world. Soon these “toys” and their trademark characters turned into hot commodities because of their special-edition releases.

Travel Inspires Pharrell Williams

The first time Pharrell Williams laid his eyes on a designer toy was during a trip to Japan about 15 years ago. The musician and modern-day Renaissance man was besotted. “It opened up this whole crazy world for me,” Pharrell told The Toronto Star in an interview. “I couldn’t believe that life had evolved to the point that grown-ups were playing with toys!”

Now Pharrell has added another hat to his collection, guest curator of This is Not a Toy. The singer of the hit song “Happiness” has teamed with some notable friends including: Germany’s Coarse, Brooklyn’s KAWS, Miami-based FriendsWithYou, and Japan’s Takashi Murakami.

The result is a whimsical travel odyssey that takes flight in Toronto, hovers over the USA, scoots across the UK and lands in Japan. The DX, hailed as Canada’s design museum, is proud to showcase this unprecedented large-scale collection of sculptures, figurines and artwork connected to the emerging designer-toy movement.

Mash-up of Cultures at Toronto Exhibit

The exhibition is dedicated to exploring the “conceptual toy,” also known in some circles as “urban vinyl.” But the materials used to create these toys go far beyond plastic. These art toys — either made in a factory or from a 3D printer in someone’s studio — are a mash-up of skateboarder culture, hip-hop, graffiti and high fashion.

Visitors will see some pieces from Pharrell’s and fashion icon Jeanne Beker’s personal collections (Chanel). The prices for the entire collection run from $2 to $2 million. And pieces from designers such as Kidrobot can be purchased at the DX gift shop.

This Is Not A Toy transforms the DX’s Exhibition Hall into a candy-coloured playground that induces childlike joy. In short, it’s hotter than hot and cooler than ice cream.

The exhibition runs until May 19 and tickets are $18.90 each.



Address: Toronto Dominion Centre, 234 Bay Street, Toronto, ON (see map below)
Curators’ Tour: April 28 and May 12 at 6:30 pm; This is Not a Work Party, May 14 at 6 pm. The exhibit closes on May 19, 2014.
Telephone: 1-416-363-6121
Hours: Monday to Wednesday, 10 am to 5 pm; Thursday, 10 am to 8 pm; Friday and Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm; Sunday, noon to 5 pm.
Admission: DX Member Admission: $8; General Admission: $16; Student & Senior Admission: $13; Family Pass: $37; Kids 6 and under: Free.
Website: Visit dx.org for more details.


Sandra Williams-Hervé is a writer, actress, and producer who divides her time between Toronto, Canada and Paris, France. She was bitten by the wanderlust bug early in life and has visited just about every continent. After growing up in Ontario, she hopes to visit all of Canada’s diverse provinces.

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