Exploring the intersection of design, pop culture and collaboration at King Power Mahanakhon in Bangkok
Art enthusiasts and collectors in Thailand recently flocked to King Power Mahanakhon in Bangkok for the exclusive Be@rbrick World Wide Tour 3. As the first Southeast Asian stop of this global exhibition, the venue, known for its SkyWalk observation deck on the 78th floor, offered a unique backdrop for the showcase.
For the uninitiated, Be@rbrick is a renowned collectible toy line crafted by the Japanese company Medicom Toy. Be@rbrick was originally released in 2001 to mark the 100th anniversary of the teddy bear. Unlike conventional figurines, Be@rbrick gradually evolved into a highly acclaimed contemporary art form and has grown to become one of the world's most popular figurines with collectors from all around the world. Since its inception, Be@rbrick has become an iconic item, with the pintsize figures reaching a staggering 100 million units sold. CEO Tatsuhiko "Ryu" Akashi, the creative force behind the collectibles, expressed his delight at the global success of Be@rbrick.
The small statues, primarily made of plastic, feature a bear-shaped design with movable arms and legs. The toys come in various sizes, most commonly 100%, 400%, and 1000% of the standard height of 7cm. Usually sold in blind boxes, they add an element of surprise for collectors. With intricate designs, these figures often result from collaborations with artists, fashion brands, and famous pop culture characters, leading to highly coveted limited-edition releases.
Be@rbrick's cultural significance lies in its ability to connect the realms of art, fashion, and toy collecting. Notable collaborations include legendary artists like Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, as well as partnerships with brands such as Nike, Adidas, and Disney. Some Be@rbricks fetch tens of thousands at auctions, like the Be@rbrick Coco Chanel 1000% Multi which was sold for a hefty $30,000 at a Christie’s auction in 2019.
The Bangkok exhibition not only showcased a large selection of iconic Be@rbricks but also featured custom creations. Collaborations with local Thai artists and fashion designers, including Muay Thai-themed Be@rbricks, were a highlight. These limited editions, designed by Art Works World Wide in collaboration with Fairtex, captured the fighting spirit of Muay Thai with authentic accessories.
Another remarkable collaboration involved Thai wedding dressmakers Vanus Couture. Be@rbricks adorned in classic Thai wedding attire, inspired by the gown of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit the Queen Mother, blended traditional and modern elements. Crafted with silk handwoven for intricate beauty, these designs showcased the timeless elegance of Thai culture.
The organizers of the exhibition hinted at the next stop in its global journey, promising more exciting collaborations and innovative designs.