I n 1995, Mattel Toys approached Sotheby’s in Munich and asked if they’d throw Barbie a party. The doll had just celebrated her 35th birthday with “Kunst, Design & Barbie,” which saw 133 artists and designers reimagine the cultural icon in an exhibition that traveled to the United States, Canada, Venezuela, Argentina and Colombia – and she needed a similarly grand introduction to German audiences.
“In these days, Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis was a real fashion icon,” recalls Sotheby’s chairman Heinrich Graf von Spreti, who organized the fête. “She was on the cover of Vanity Fair.” So Graf von Spreti asked Princess TNT – as she was known in the tabloids – if Barbie’s party could take place in her castle in Regensburg. Princess TNT said yes, of course, and on 4 May 1995, St. Emmeram Palace hosted a benefit auction that included 65 dolls from the traveling exhibition, donated by their designers to raise funds for Children’s Cancer Aid.
In the slideshow below, see newly digitized spreads from the auction catalogue, in which Barbie – decked in lederhosen, channeling the philosophy of Theodor Adorno, held captive by King Kong – was presented in some of her most whimsical iterations.
Banner photo by Wolfgang Kühn via United Archives GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo