On view February 10 to May 6, 2018

PlayTime is the first major thematic exhibition to survey the rapidly evolving role of play in contemporary art and culture. Nearly forty works by seventeen leading contemporary artists—including large-scale installations, sculpture, photographs, video and tactile interactives—examine how play catalyzes creative expression, enchants the ordinary, and helps us understand ourselves in new ways.

The Digital Publication
Launched in early fall 2017, playtime.pem.org jumpstarts the conversation and accompanies the exhibition. The digital publication explores the shifting role of play in the arts and culture with contributions by leading writers, thinkers, gamewrights, poets, and artists. Check in early and often to play along with us—discover new writing on games and society, hear the artists talk about what play means to them, see our curators in action, and learn how deeply and broadly play has permeated our culture.

The Exhibition
PlayTime features three tactile interactive works, including an immersive balloon room installation by Turner Prize winner Martin Creed and participatory One Minute Sculptures by internationally renowned artist Erwin Wurm which invite visitors to become part of the exhibition by striking and holding unexpected poses with everyday objects. Leading contemporary artists from around the globe are exhibited alongside several younger, emerging artists who make their New England debut with this exhibition. PlayTime artists include: Cory Arcangel, Mark Bradford, Nick Cave, Martin Creed, Lara Favaretto, Cao Fei, Brian Jungen, Teppei Kaneuji, Paul McCarthy, Rivane Neuenschwander, Pedro Reyes, Robin Rhode, Roman Signer, Gwen Smith, Angela Washko, Agustina Woodgate, and Erwin Wurm.

Please be advised that this exhibition includes language and imagery that may be sensitive to some. You can learn more about the works in PlayTime here.

Martin Creed, Work No. 329, 2004, balloons. On loan from Rennie Collection, Vancouver. Photo by Bob Packert/PEM.

For safety reasons, please note that children under twelve must be accompanied by an adult.

PLAY spurs productivity.

PLAY is a catalyst for creativity.

PLAY is an escape from conformity.

PLAY reinvents the rules.

PLAY empowers the players.

PLAY stimulates innovation.

PLAY enables exploration.

PLAY is a response to uncertainty.

PLAY rewards misbehavior.

PLAY negotiates conflict.

PLAY resists productivity.

PLAY is _________________.

Share your impressions with us on social media using #PEMplaytime

PlayTime is organized by the Peabody Essex Museum and made possible in part by the Nancy B. Tieken Memorial Fund and supporters of the Present Tense Initiative. Carolyn and Peter S. Lynch and The Lynch Foundation provided generous support. The East India Marine Associates of the Peabody Essex Museum provided valuable support.

PlayPower, Inc. is the lead sponsor of this exhibition.


Media Partners: Outfront Media and Where Boston



In-Kind Media Partner: WBUR

ART + TECH Collaboration
PlayTime is presented as part of a citywide partnership of arts and educational institutions organized to recognize the outsized role greater Boston has played in the history and development of technology. The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston initiated this partnership to link concurrent exhibitions and programs related to the themes of the ICA exhibition Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today. Information on all the exhibitions and programs can be found at aiai.icaboston.org.

Experience \\ Play


Let's play! PlayTime on pem.org jumpstarts the conversation: how is play changing our lives? On the digital platform and in the exhibition space, we explore the shifting role of play in art and culture with leading writers, thinkers, game designers, poets, artists—and you.

Blog \\ Connected

In the Paint

Some pretty impressive moves were witnessed recently on a small basketball court in Salem’s Point neighborhood — and we’re not talking crossover dribbles or slam dunks.

Blog \\ Connected

Partnership celebrates the value of play

Blog \\ Connected


Press \\ Press Releases

PEM debuts first major exhibition celebrating play in contemporary art & culture