Plastique ludique in Paris

9/6/ - 13/11, 2011, Musée des Arts décoratifs, Paris.
Libuše Niklová in the Musée des Arts décoratifs in Louvre and Petr Nikl in the Czech Center Paris.


Playful Plastic: Libuše Niklová's toy design

Retrospective exhibition of the Czech designer
Libuše Niklová (1934-81)

An exhibition of creations by Libuše Niklová, an icon of Czech design whose toys and inflatable objects have shaped the childhoods of several generations of children and adults. They deservedly belong to the classics of modern art and
design from the post-war period.

Places and Dates of Exhibition:

Musée des Arts décoratifs, Paris, France, 9.6. - 6.11. 2011
Museum of Decorative Arts, Prague, Czech Republic, 1. 4. – 6. 6. 2010
Gallery of Fine Arts, Zlín, Czech Republic, 2. 2. – 23. 3. 2010

Exhibition Team:
Exhibition curator: Tereza Bruthansová, PhD.
Graphic designer: Zuzana Lednická
Exhibition designer: Petr Nikl
Production: Taktum s.r.o. in partnership with Arbor vitae societas, Prague,
Mgr. Vladana Rýdlová, info@taktum.cz, www.taktum.cz

A modified version of the retrospective exhibition of designs by Libuše Niklová
(1934-81), which first opened in Prague and Zlín (Czech Republic), was successfully presented at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris from June until November 2011. It was positively received by the general public and art professionals, as well as the French and international press.

About the exhibition:
Czechs are internationally renowned for the tradition of artistically designed wooden toys – a tradition founded primarily by artists in Artěl at the beginning of the 20th century. Libuše Niklová entered the history of Czech toys in the mid-1950s when the invasion of plastic materials started to resonate more and more in many fields. She managed to fully exploit their advantages, including softness, lightness, flexibility, hygiene, and expressive color schemes, together with new technologies. The designer elevated the functional object of the toy to an art form without inhibiting its possibilities for manufacturer or children's use. The attention she gave to the decoration of her objects, as well as the graphic design and the packaging of the toys, proves that she thought about her works down to the smallest detail. Niklová's toys are as famous in the Czech Republic as is Bruno Munari’s monkey Zizi in Italy and Sophie the giraffe in France. Her Cat (1963) and Buffalo (1971) became icons in the world of Czech design.

The retrospective presents the complete output of the designer from her early designs to plaster models, drawings and accomplished object designs. The least familiar chapter of the designer’s productions were small squealing figures and animals created from the mid-fifties to mid-sixties. The collection of figures representing different professions (such as Doctor, Nurse, Motorcyclist or Train Dispatcher) designed for the national competition in 1964 is particularly interesting. Niklová’s name is associated mostly with the Fatra company in Napajedla where she worked between 1963 and 1981, designing a series of ingenious inflatable and polyethylene toys. Not only was she a talented designer but she also authored several clever inventions of which nine were patented. Her collection of animals and babies with accordion-like bodies, famous for the iconic Cat (1963), is exceptional too. Using a
pipe from the flushing toilet tank she created a foldable body that squeals when pressed. Among the inflatable objects, her sitting toys are similarly inventive, with the Buffalo (1971), Giraffe (1971) and Elephant (1972) being the most favoured by children. She complemented the visual attractiveness of her toys, water wheels, boats and mattresses as well as their packaging by pretty graphic patterns. Her objects thus literally stimulated all children’s senses.

Exhibition Design
The exhibition presents inflatable, rubber and polyethylene toys as well as plaster models, photographs, drawings and archival documents. The exhibition concept and layout follow the individual types of toys (early squealing figures, accordion collection, inflatable objects) and the character of Niklová’s work (graphic design, models, archival documents). Both the concept and layout of the exhibition can be adjusted to suit different types of gallery spaces, with respect to the delicate nature of the exhibits. The original exhibition design was created by the son of Libuše Niklová, a renowned Czech artist Petr Nikl. The graphic design was made by Zuzana Lednická from the Prague’s Najbrt Studio who also designed Libuše Niklová’s monograph.

Libuše Niklová (1934-1981)

Libuše Niklová was born in Zlín in the former Czechoslovakia. From 1949 to 1953 she studied at the Secondary School of Applied Arts in Zlín and Uherské Hradiště. In 1958 she married the painter František Nikl, with whom she had two children, Petr (born in 1960) and Veronika (born in 1968). From 1954 to 1960 she worked for the Gumotex company in Břeclav, then starting in 1961 as a toy designer for the Fatra company in Napajedla. While working for this firm, founded in 1935, she patented nine processes and three industrial designs, including the accordion toys and the animal-shaped inflatable children’s seats, for which she obtained a national patent. Her toys are included in the collections of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, the Museum of South-East Moravia in Zlín, the Brno City Museum and the Museum of Decforative Arts in Paris.

The monograph book Libuše Niklová was conceived and written by Tereza
Bruthansová and designed by the graphic designer Zuzana Lednická. The book, which is published by the Czech editor Arbor vitae societas, won the Most Beautiful Czech Book of the Year 2010, the award of the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic and the Museum of Czech Literature. The monograph is bilingual. Its first edition was published in Czech and English.

Plastique ludique (9. 6.–13. 11. 2011)
Musée des Arts décoratifs
107, rue de Rivoli, Paris


Llibuše Niklová – Plastique ludique
Llibuše Niklová – Plastique ludique
Llibuše Niklová – Plastique ludique
Llibuše Niklová – Plastique ludique
Llibuše Niklová – Plastique ludique
Llibuše Niklová – Plastique ludique
Llibuše Niklová – Plastique ludique
Llibuše Niklová – Plastique ludique
Llibuše Niklová – Plastique ludique