September 20, 2011

Czech Made: Awesome Motorcyclists By Libuse Niklova


Mondo Blogo's got another round-up of crazy old avant-garde toys. This time the theme is Czech Designers Who Got More Toys Produced Than Ludislav Sutnar, Maybe Because They Stayed In Czechoslovakia.

In other words, the Libuse Niklova retrospective at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.

Sutnar, of course, was installing the Czechoslovakian Pavilion at the New York World's Fair in 1939 when the Nazis invaded. And though he did well in his accidental home country, inventing the area code and the parentheses around it, for example, he never found a US manufacturer for his Factory Town blocks. Or a publisher for his awesome children's book.

Niklova, on the other hand, revolutionized the postwar Czech toy industry. First up, in the 50's and mid-1960s: her little handpainted figurines, made originally from rubber, and later from plastic, for Gumotex. Then came a barrage of inflatable toys, enough to keep a hundred Jeff Koons assistants busy for years replicating them in stainless steel. Which, frankly, and with no sexual implications, I swear, is usually how I prefer my inflatable toys.


Three of Niklova's big inflatable animals--a bull, a giraffe, and an elephant--have been reissued in a limited edition for the exhibition. They're cute, and maybe there's some secret, Eastern bloc technology that prevents giant inflatable ride-on toys from deflating or popping as soon as a kid climbs on, but I doubt it. They're available exclusively at the Musee's Rue de Rivoli shop, right across from the McDonald's, so they'll all end up in Japan anyway.

Now about these motorcyclists. Niklova did a whole range of little Gumotex figures, the awesomest of which seem to date from 1964. [Mondo also shows a lion tamer and chimney sweep, there should be more in the exhibition catalogue.] They're pared down, solid, safe, and easy to produce. Maybe someone in the indie vinyl toy industry could take a break from the endless stream of Munny and Bearbrick variations and work to put a sweet, historic design back into low-volume production.

Now I'm actually kind of annoyed that Colette hasn't already done it. Poseur slackers.

More Avant Garde Toys [mondo-blogo]
Plastique Ludique: Libuše Niklová, designer de jouets, runs through Nov. 6, 2011 []
There's a Libuse Niklova catalogue, in English & Czech, which looks nice.

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