To complement October Gallery’s Gérard Quenum ‘Dolls Never Die’ exhibition (running until 27th October) we’ve put together our Top 10 artworks featuring dolls…
1. Rachel Whiteread’s ‘Storytime’ was part of a Tate exhibition, ‘The House of Fairytales’ in 2008. We love this. It’s sweet and nostalgic and the kind of thing we did as kids, but the three raggedy bogeymen lend the photograph a disturbing edge that we can all recognise from The Brothers Grimm.
2. ‘Toddlerpedes.’ These sculptures are, in our opinion, inherently creepy; they put BC in mind of stomach-curdling film, ‘The Human Centipede.’ Their creator Jon Beinart finds them “irresistibly cute” though, according to his website, and he is always after donations of doll parts so he can make more.
3. Los Angeles-based painter Judy Ragagli concentrates on portraits of nostalgic Barbies because she wants to give Barbie the legacy Ragagli feels she deserves. Ragagli only uses seven colours of oil paint; she mixes all the colours by hand. Considering how much tone and contrast she achieves, that’s seriously impressive.
4. Ok, so it’s a little old, but if we’re doing a piece on dolls and Pablo Picasso painted a doll, it goes in. ‘Portrait Of Maya With Doll’ was painted in 1938, when its subject, Picasso’s daughter, was two or three. The painting was stolen from Maya’s daughter’s house in early 2007, but recovered a few months later. It’s now in the Picasso Museum in Paris.
5. When Russian Vogue celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2008, its team invited 31 fashion designers to decorate a traditional Russian doll (Marioshka). BC loves the plaid Ralph Lauren and the faceless Dries van Noten. And we think the Nina Donis one looks a bit like Karl Lagerfeld.
6. We had to include Russian-Canadian art doll creator Marina Bychkova. She’s only 30 but her stunning porcelain dolls sell for thousands of pounds; the metal shoes she makes for her dolls can fetch £500 on their own. This particular image was used to advertise a British jewellery designer on Facebook, but was censored because of the nipples…
7. Michele Oka Doner’s 1968 porcelain dolls were used by fellow University of Michigan students as symbols of a protest against the US’s use of Napalm in Vietnam – the dolls are deliberately disfigured and horrific disfigurement is one of Napalm’s many cruel effects. These two dolls formed part of a larger project of dolls tattooed with similar Amazonian designs.
8. Cindy Sherman made Doll Clothes in 1975, when she was still a student. The film shows her as a paper doll, manipulated by a hand that puts her back in her plastic sleeve after each outfit change, and reflects Sherman’s fascination with women’s politics and identity.
9. As of June this year, these 11 partially-inflated sex dolls, by artist Sturtevant, were on reserve for a mind-blowing €175,000 (£139,475). Their seller, New York art dealer Gavin Brown, emphasised that he was selling them as art rather than as toys, recognising that £12,680 is pretty expensive for a sex doll. Not that we would know, we’re just going with what Google says.
10. Finally, the inspiration for this article, Beninese artist, Gérard Quenum. Quenum’s doll sculptures are both a nod to West African traditions of making installations out of found objects, and a commentary on how toys have histories and personality.
by Jennie Gillions