Toyism is a contemporary art movement that originated in the 1990s in the Netherlands. The word symbolises the playful character of our artworks and the philosophy behind it. And the suffix ‘ism’ refers to motion or movements. The game of toyism is a serious matter that shows a new, critical and sensitive perspective on our present-day world. The art that is made is figurative, contemporary and based on a story. Not everyone likes art, but everone likes a good story. Every toyism artwork is made with the greatest possible attention for detail and with impeccable craftsmanship.
We operate as a movement, instead of separate individuals, hence one toyist cannot be seen as more important or famous than the other. There is no rivalry among the artists. The evident message we carry out is that the artworks count, not the artist itself that has created it. Although the artists do make their own art, in many occasions we work together, which means that the produced artwork cannot be attributed to a single artist.
Every toyist that joins the group chooses a pseudonym (pen name) starting with one of the available letters from the alphabet, a letter not yet in use by another toyist. This means that the group cannot be represented by more than 26 artists. Every single toyist chooses a so-called puppet, an icon representing the artist. By means of this puppet the toyist has its own face towards the public, although he or she is in fact faceless. Toyists never expose their human face (on photo or camera), instead, they wear masks to cover their identity. We focuse only on our creations, in which we leave our mark in the world as individuals, but we don’t reveal our identities.
Our secret manifesto Mother (written by Dejo/founder of toyism) contains a palette of ingredients from which mainly paintings, but lately also sculptures, silkscreens, jewelry and glass art emerge. The manifesto is only meant to be read by the attending artists. The artworks can be seen as children of Mother and one or more parents (the artists). A parent can be either a man or a woman, or even more artists representing one parent next to Mother. This can be established because of the anonymous characteristics of the parents. Every parent mixes ideas and characteristics with properties of Mother. This strongly connects the children, after all they arose from Mother.
BE(COME) A TOYIST
The toyism group is certainly open to new artists and will be limited to 26 before no more pseudonyms can be assumed. First step in the process is contacting the Toyism Studio to express interest. Go ahead and write if this sounds like your style. Life is short.
TOYISM 1992 – 2020
Play with art? Can you play with art? The artist collective known as the toyists think you can. They campaign against the common laws of art. They use playing as a starting point for a new sort of art and they lay down their artistic credo – which handles usage of form, style and vivid colours – in a manifesto.
These were the first words from Frans Haks, former manager of the museum of Groningen, opening the toyism exhibition “TOYISM NOT FOR BABIES”, held in 2004 at a large art gallery in the south of Holland. Unfortunately Frans is no longer among us, but toyism still operates similarly.
Toyism started in 1992 in Emmen. Toyism is based on a manifesto. This manifesto is written on the 5th of September 1992 and is called ‘Moeder’, the Dutch word for mother. This manifesto can be seen as the mother of all their works of art and it is stated as a notarial deed in 1993. Its content is known only by the toyists and will not be revealed to the public. Things like usage of colour, technique, form etc… are mentioned here. But of course it is the artist himself/herself determining what he/she produces.
Why is the name ‘Moeder’ used? Mother is the origin and with her characteristics she delivers an important contribution to every piece of art produced by the toyists. Better stated, Mother always leaves traces of DNA in them. Mother relates to a partner, a male or female artist. This partner also leaves its traces of DNA. Their relationship produces offspring, children representing toyism art pieces.
The artworks always contain characteristics of both, Mother and her partner. But, because there are different partners, (Mother isn’t very particular 🙂 all the children are different too. Someone from Malaysia has another background and culture than, for instance, somebody living in Iceland or the Netherlands. This is a nice phenomenon, because that person uses its own ideas, opinions and notions in the toyism style, causing a true enrichment, the style becomes even more interesting.
Pseudonyms & Anonymous
Within toyism pseudonyms are used. Every artist comes up with his/her own pseudonym and signs his/her work with that chosen name. The name starts with a letter from the alphabet that is not already in use by another toyist, so the maximum number of toyists is 26, obviously. As can be seen in the brochures and on the website their faces are never revealed! We wear masks as soon as a camera is in sight and we are recognised only by a toyism puppet and/or a toddler photo.
The puppet/toddler photo and the pseudonym are linked to the pieces of art. It is not the person and his/her face that counts, only art is important. This aspect leads to acting as a group, rather than an individual; this is the basic principle of toyism.
Join the movement
Toyism is for everyone, but not everyone can be a toyist. Are you an artist and do you want to be a toyist? Fill out the form below, tell us something about yourself, why do you want to be a toyist? And find out if you have what it takes to be part of the movement.