Best Museum Exhibition
"America's Monsters, Superheroes, and Villains" at the Goldstein Museum of Design
Geeking out, even attending the opening reception in full costume, was encouraged during this celebration of Minneapolis toy collector David Barnhill's impressive assemblage of pop-culture icons. Wonder Woman was in attendance (the miniature plastic-doll version, as well as a costumed enthusiast in the flesh), along with an array of toys such as the villainous Rat Fink (driving a hot rod, no less), Star Wars figurines, an assortment of aliens, and comic-book heroes from DC and Marvel — some in their original packaging. Co-curated by Barnhill, who has been collecting since the 1960s, and fellow enthusiast Stephen Rueff, the exhibition appealed to the kid in all of us. Wide-eyed visitors of all ages could be heard exuberantly exclaiming, "Wow!" "Whoa!" "Look at that!" At the same time, the objects presented also provided trenchant commentary on the role and portrayal of women, the Cold War and the arms race, and the rapid acceleration of scientific discovery in the mid-20th century. Toy design and manufacturing techniques were also presented and discussed via the 400-plus pieces in the exhibit, all of which came from Barnhill's personal collection, which contains some 200,000 toys and counting. Minds were blown. Intellects were engaged.