"Take your pleasure seriously!" This motto of Charles Eames forms the starting point for the exhibition Play Parade at the Vitra Design Museum Gallery. It is the first exhibition project by the Vitra Design Museum that has been conceived especially for children and families. In a spatial installation full of fascinating shapes and rich colours, visitors can discover and experience Charles and Ray Eames’s understanding of toys as a precursor to great ideas.
Play Parade is a hybrid world of fantasy and museum: the installation shows how the Eameses gave expression to their endless supply of ideas by designing, collecting and displaying all kinds of objects. Colourfully patterned paper kites and graphically striking masks from the Eameses’ toy collection serve as a backdrop for their own toy designs from the 1950s. Original artefacts can be viewed in showcases, while visitors are invited to touch and play with replicas and re-editions. Early Eames films such as Tops or Parade, featuring a choreography of spinning tops or a series of dolls and toy vehicles parading in front of painted scenery, set the exhibited objects in motion.
The works on display include The Toy, a modular construction set consisting of wooden dowels and colourful panels that can be used to make model aeroplanes, towers, tents or sales stands. Visitors can appear in a circus ring wearing Eames animal masks, or erect large structures with the famous House of Cards. Since the Eameses felt that toys were of equal value and deserved the same attention as everyday furnishings and other utilitarian products, their toy designs were intended not only for children, but also for adults who shared the couple’s enthusiasm for play.
The exhibition demonstrates how seriously Charles and Ray Eames regarded their work and experiments with toys, and how play can be an important source of creativity – as they proved with their own designs. The scope of this show extends beyond the Eameses’ concepts for toys from the 1950s. Objects from their personal collection of toys reach further back in history, exposing today’s children to the cultural history of play and allowing them to test the timeless quality of these toys.