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Toy Story


A tale of the Munny, and the artists that tinker with it

Kidrobot’s Munny, a monkey-shaped android cast in permeable vinyl, stands 46-centimetres-tall. Founder Paul Budnitz and illustrator Tristan Eaton designed it in 2005 specifically to be painted and scribbled on – to become whatever little robot DIYers desired. The figurines sell out in toy stores globally, and museums exhibit the ones transformed by graffiti- and fine artists. So is the coveted Munny really a plaything, and what makes it “designer”?

For the Design Exchange’s This Is Not a Toy exhibition, Toronto’s irreverent art collective Team Macho put its Munny on a pedestal to self-effacing effect. Theirs is one of 700-plus figures customized by artists and collectives the world over – many of which are bright and luxuriantly tactile. Take, for example, Japanese artist Takashi Murakami’s The Simple Things. Designed in collaboration with recording mogul and co-curator Pharrell Williams and jeweller Jacob Arabo, the toothy fibreglass monster features a mouthful of Williams’ favourite gem-encrusted things. Nearby is Castor Design’s Munny, chiselled Michelangelo-style from Carrara marble.

Team Macho sprayed its bright white toy with a stain and water repellent coating, and installed it in an abandoned polyethylene bird bath. Their Munny stands in a pool of black ink that streams down from its oversized head to splash onto the floor. “We developed a sort of empathy for the blank figure,” says Lauchie Reid, one-fourth of Team Macho. “We decided to allow it to remain not only un-customized, but un-customizable. Our Munny pays tribute to the empty canvas that these objects begin as, and to their integration in day-to-day life.” For Reid and his partners, anything can be made a toy. As for “designer,” that requires imagination.



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In the 2024 Spring/Summer Issue of Designlines, we focus on New Builds and “celebrate the profound impact of creating something new, not just as an architectural endeavour but as a testament to laying down roots and shaping the very essence of our city’s identity,” editor-in-chief Joseph Cicerone writes.



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