DOLLS’ HOUSES from the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood, London

An impromptu holiday visit to Turku’s Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova Museum to see a sampling of dolls’ houses from the Victoria & Albert Museum collection proved to be an unexpectedly fascinating journey. The reason: it presented a mini-history of doll house miniatures that combines the worlds of play and reverie with that of architectural and interior design, urban planning, social history and art.

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Though most of the houses reflect the lives of Britain’s elite and date from the early 20th century or earlier, the survey includes a couple of much more modern structures. This becomes obvious when attention suddenly shifts to the WWII era. From this we are then abruptly transferred to the verticality of life in big cities and a preoccupation with plastics in the high-rise apartment tower loaded with intensely hued replicas of 1960’s furnishings.

The climax is Laurie SimmonsKaleidoscope House 2001, which formed the real ‘coup de theatre.’ This house, built out of transparent colour panels, not only turns the use of colour into a visual game, but  its decor also features miniature replicas of a number of contemporary artists’ work. It caused me to see it as a hybrid, a merging of aspects from Duchamp’s Boîte-en-valise and Philip Johnson’s Glass House.

My only disappointment is that the house couldn’t be examined close-up. Fortunately, my pocket camera’s zoom lens helped me evade the physical barrier protecting the work. I used it to zero in on some of the details. Take a look…

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Barbara Kruger, Untitled (I Shop Therefore I am), 1987
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Left to right: Alexander Ross, Untitled, 1999; Mel Kendrick, Untitled Sculpture, 2000; Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #54, 1976.
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Left to right: Laurie Simmons, Untitled/Woman’s Head, 1976; John Newman, Bubbles Burst, 1993-94.
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Mel Bochner, 1=12, 2000

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