Art Toys: the new trend for art collectors

by Marco Vitulo

Let’s take a moment to clarify exactly what Art Toys are. These objects – also known as designer toys – are attracting more and more collectors everyday, particularly among the millennial generation. They are collectibles in the shape of toys, the features of which resemble cartoon figures, animals and characters from popular culture. They are generally produced by artists, designers and illustrators and are made from materials such as plastic, vinyl, plush, wood, resin and various metals.

The emergence of these ‘toys’ can generally be traced back to 1995, when artist Raymond Choy, founder of Toys2R in Hong Kong, created the original Qee series (which is still in production today). Besides this line, some other world famous examples are produced by American company Kidrobot, which launched the Dunny series, as well as Japanese company Medicom Toys, with their Be@rbrick. This phenomenon goes well beyond these two series, however, as every year new additions appear on the ever growing market.

These large companies produce their own characters with clear-cut style, and then collaborate with artists and designers, to whom the task of customizing them is entrusted.

Internationally renowned artists such as Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, Ron English, Franz Kozik and Jason Freeny, having already experimented with different mediums in their artistic practice, wanted to measure themselves against these ‘sculptural objects’, creating series of Art Toys which would go on to become part of some very important collections. These days, these “design toys” are considered true works of art.

In addition to the aforementioned big names, noteworthy artists from the next generation who are also enjoying great success are the likes of Kaws, Joan Cornella, Hebru Brantley, Matt Gondek, Cote Escriva, Steven Harrington, Whatshisname, Emilio Garcia, WizardSkull and Abell Octovan, just to name but a few. The success of these artists, which isn’t thanks to the quality of their works alone, is partially down to their huge following on social media, which allows for the unlimited circulation of images of their work on a variety of platforms and channels.

This large following has also significantly increased the number of transactions regarding these items being sold online. Imagine that, the instant these items launch and become available to purchase, people can access them online in the minutes leading up to this in order to buy them. For example: Share, the last Art Toy launched by Kaws, sold out in just 3 and a half minutes, with thousands of reproductions available in three different color variations. This is also the case for the majority of the other artists mentioned. This demonstrates how substantial the demand for these objects truly is, with the market struggling to keep up.

The result is extraordinary. The market goes wild for these objects and the result means that multiple retailers spring up.

In the days following the release of Designer Toys, it is possible to find the same pieces for sale on secondary platforms for hugely inflated prices. This is probably a peculiarity of this sector, which has led to the unbridled rush by many collectors who, day after day, continue to build their collections, introducing these objects which they now consider works of art, in all respects. 

So where can you buy Art Toys? Besides the official websites of artists, numerous auction houses, museum shops and art galleries there are also the main Art Toys fairs (such as Complexcon), or the manufacturers who collaborate directly with artists to create works, including: Medicom Toys, Kidrobot, Toys2R, Mighty Jaxx, DDTStore, Art Toy Gama, Thunder Mates, and many others. Timeliness will be your best ally in this gold rush.

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