Art & Toys at NRW Forum

30.9.2022 to 05.02.2023


Pop meets Street Art: For the first time, international artists and designers from the urban art scene such as Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Swoon and JR will come together at the NRW-Forum Düsseldorf. More than 2,000 works of photography and graphic design as well as graffiti, sculptures and designer toys merge to form a colorful Gesamtkunstwerk of pop culture. Street art emerged from protest cultures, civil disobedience, and countercultural movements of the 1960s and 1970s. In the USA, young graffiti artists sprayed their names or simple signs on houses and subway cars. Later, more and more sophisticated images emerged that covered entire house walls.  The works, which are characterized by social and consumer criticism, are just as relevant today as they were at the time of their creation. In their compilation, they illustrate the creative, playful and political potential of urban art, with works by Banksy, Javier Calleja, Shepard Fairey, Daniel & Geo Fuchs, Futura, Mark Gonzales, JR, KAWS, Conny Maier, Stefan Marx, Os Gêmeos, Ricky Powell, Stefan Strumbel and Swoon, among others.

The exhibition begins with the origins of street art in the Bronx, New York, with documentary street photography from the 1970s to the 1990s by Ricky Powel and Martha Cooper for example, and the first stencils and pastings by Banksy and Swoon. Since the late 1990s, the U.S. artist Swoon has been making life-size, intricately designed figures out of recycled newsprint, which she prepares in the studio for a long time, unusual for street art.

The pioneers of street art took great risks and often remained anonymous due to illegal actions. Nevertheless, some of them have achieved great fame, such as the French artist JR, who also keeps his true identity secret. He places his works as large-format posters on house walls, staircases and walls. The artist and designer Shepard Fairey, who began with drawings on T-shirts and skateboards, became world famous when he designed the "Hope" campaign poster for former US President Barack Obama.

With more than 250 editions, the exhibition presents a large selection of prints by the U.S. artist, who is also known for his streetwear brand Obey, which is critical of capitalism. In the meantime, street art has become so popular that many artists are now represented internationally by major galleries and millions are paid for works by Banksy or KAWS at art auctions. Brian Donnelly, KAWS, is successful with paintings and sculptures as well as with designer toys. In the 1990s, he made a name for himself as a graffiti artist by painting over and ironically reinterpreting advertising posters in public spaces with his own motifs. The "companion" character with crossed eyes, which he frequently used and invented, formed the starting point for many of his Designer Toys, which were published as editions and to which the exhibition devotes a separate room.

Designer Toys are artistic fantasy figures or variations of well-known commercial characters, often in limited editions, which emphasizes their serial character and arouses the interest of collectors. The characteristic design of KAWS can be found not only in its sculpture editions, but also in the Be@rbrick figures of the Japanese manufacturer Medicom.

All the works come from the collection of the Düsseldorf entrepreneur Selim Varol, who has been collecting for more than 30 years and, with more than 10,000 works, has probably assembled one of the most extensive collections of urban art and designer toys in Europe. The exhibition is curated by Alain Bieber, artistic director of the NRW-Forum Düsseldorf.

NRW-Forum Düsseldorf Ehrenhof 2
40479 Düsseldorf

NRW-Forum Düsseldorf ist Teil der Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast.


Dienstag – Sonntag: 11 – 18 Uhr
Donnerstag: 11 – 21 Uhr