What do Dutch post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh, NBA superstar Patrick Ewing and infamous sci-fi villain Darth Vader have in common? They are among the hundreds of pop culture figures from the past, present, and future to be sculpted into vinyl figurines in the shape of a Lego man wearing a bear’s head … and their demand is at an all-time high.
While the Be@rbrick, launched by Japanese toy company Medicom in 2001, successfully tapped into collectors’ passion with the release of series of blind bags, it’s their who-is-who of collaborative partners that sets Medicom apart. When it comes to modern consumer culture, you name it, they’ve done it.
From Basquiat to Banksy-inspired designs and various contemporary designers and artists like KAWS. From fragement design’s Hiroshi Fujiwara to Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld and a long-running collaborative history with Nike SB, Medicom has collaborated with some of fashion industry’s biggest names. But it doesn’t stop there. Star Wars? They’ve done it! Disney? Check! Your favorite cartoon character? There’s a solid chance that he or she exists with a bear-shaped head.
The toys’ unquestionable popularity opens up the possibility of hypothesizing, whether their characteristic mix of demand (especially for limited edition pieces) and availability make vinyl the canvas of the next generations’ entry into collecting, buying, selling contemporary art.
The Be@rbricks not only represent an accessible way of buying into the world of some of the most sought-after contemporary artists and designers but also reflect the substantial role played by branding and licensing in modern consumer culture.
The figurines of various shapes and sizes all offer a versatile tool for artists as well as brands to expand their trademark imagery and characteristic patterns beyond their own range of products. Bridging the gap between apparel, footwear and other accessories like skate decks and the collectors’ living spaces, the collectibles have a chance to enter their collector’s field of view as frequently as a painting on a wall, making a co-created Be@rbrick valuable from a brand’s point of view as well. At this rate, no t-shirt could keep up, no matter the fashioning brand’s current hype.
Whether you’re trying to find a sought-after piece to complete your collection or you recently discovered that your personal favorite pop culture icon has received the Be@rbrick treatment, be sure to take a look at BSTN’s ever-growing selection of Medicom toys!