By Bruno De Nicola, Contributing Reporter

Dodô Dadá art toys, photo by João Reis.
Dodô Dadá art toys, photo by Delfina Renck Reis.

RIO DE JANEIRO – The Toy Art phenomenon by which companies and artists use the medium of stuffed dolls, has exploded in popularity in store displays, magazines, books and the internet. The duality of a children’s toy and art object is attracting a very wide range of consumers, as well as artists looking for new ways to express themselves.

The movement is on the rise in Brazil, especially in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, where Street Art and Toy Art continue to promote and inspire each other.

Toy Art has a dual appeal, aesthetically and as a child’s plaything. This particular nature of the object places it in an undefined position between art and merchandise. The unusual, colorful dolls attract the inner infantile, nostalgic longings of consumers while expressing the perverse and Gothic tones rampant in modern society, conquering fans and collectors of all ages.

The Toy Art market is developing rapidly and has already become of interest to large toy factories and retail stores all over the world.

Toy Art was born in 1994 when a Japanese artist and designer called Keiko Miyata started working for a toy factory in Tokyo. It did not take long for his creative mind to marry passion and profession, and soon the first expressions of a new art came to life and rapidly spread throughout the globe.

The objects Keiko Miyata created were toys in a technical, aesthetic sense, but they were also unique artistic expressions appealing to collectors of all ages. The first Toy Art dolls were made of vinyl, like most action figures, but soon cheaper production methods started to emerge.

When the big toy corporations noticed the market potential for Toy Art, the custom art-object production underwent quite a transformation. Nowadays art toys range from the handmade, mainly sold over the Internet, to the factory-made, sold in retail toy stores.

Toy Artist, Delfina Renk Reis, and her dolls, photo by João Reis.
Toy Artist, Delfina Renk Reis, and her dolls, photo by Vinicius Nascimento.

In an interview with The Gringo Times, Brazilian Toy Artist Delfina Renck Reis explained that the dual nature of Toy Art has a strong influence on her production, creating a dynamic mix between art process and fashion marketing.

Her artistic work, for instance, has a family brand called “Dodô Dadá – Toy Art”, with five different product lines that carry their own specific brand. Delfina Renck Reis sells her artwork all over the world thanks to her website.

According to Reis, “the strong popularity of graffiti and urban arts in general attracts people looking for other expressions of the same language. All over the city of Rio de Janeiro you see weird and violent images sprayed on the walls, and people are getting used to it.”

Her customers are incredibly varied; sometimes whole families visit her stand at Lavradio Market, in Centro, and each family member buys something. The children are enticed by the toy element, while older siblings and parents are intrigued by the dolls’ artistic qualities.

Both segments of the market seem to be very attracted to the collector’s aspect of Reis’ work. She has even tagged each doll with a serial number, further blurring the line between the commercial aspect of collecting an art object whose value will increase over time, and the joy of possessing a fun and ironic toy.

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