You want to expose your child to contemporary art. Your child wants you to get excited about toys called blind box figures. Neither really understands what the other is talking about. Fortunately, there’s no need to choose between visiting a gallery and visiting a toy store with Rotofugi. This fascinating shop on the border of Lincoln Park and Lakeview combines the best of both, with the high design of a gallery and the playful whimsy of an independent toy store. Its designer toys are artistic; its art is playful. In other words, it’s fun for both of you.
The moment you enter, you’re both blown away by floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with bunnies, ponies, zombies, and ninjas in every color. This isn’t your typical department store action-figure aisle, so let your little one take some time to look around. You’re captivated by a translucent Ninja Turtle with no pupils, bared teeth, and sparkly silver speckles. And there’s something about those Uglydolls — they’re little Americana demons, done in bright-colored plush, and you can’t figure out why they’re so cute. There’s even one dressed up as Gene Simmons.
Much of the inventory is made up of radically cute vinyl creatures from around the world, but Rotofugi has house-made wonders as well. For example, its Marshall Mashumaro line of tubby, lightly toasted action figures features a little boy who became a marshmallow (long story).
Once you’ve rewarded your child with a shiny new toy, head to the adjoining gallery, where artists from Chicago, the U.S., and abroad catch your eye with interpretations of everything from the 1970s to Bigfoot. You both share a laugh at an ink-and-watercolor rendering of Batman relaxing in an ultra-mod chair. The Caped Crusader is in full gear, casually sipping his morning coffee and reading The Gotham Times. You might be enjoying it for different reasons, but it’s a shared art experience all the same.
When you leave Rotofugi, you and your kid are each holding an Adventure Time Mystery blind box. As you learned today, a blind box is when you buy a toy, but don’t know which specific figure you’ve just purchased. When you open your new treasures later that night, it’s hard to tell which of you is more excited.