Artist Frida Kahlo’s popularity soars, but family struggles to manage legacy

MEXICO Metropolis (Reuters) – A coil of darkish braids. Colourful Mexican gown. And a signature unibrow.

A Google staff maps the exterior of the childhood residence of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, now Frida Kahlo Museum, also known as “Casa Azul”, in Mexico Metropolis, Mexico Could 21, 2018. Image taken Could 21, 2018. REUTERS/Gustavo Graf

Sixty-3 yrs just after her dying, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo has accomplished a level of fame she hardly ever reached in her life time, her graphic emblazoned on mugs, T-shirts, keychains and even underwear. But scholars and the painter’s descendants lament she has been lowered to a set of distinctive actual physical functions that generally overshadows her true do the job.

The debate heated up this spring when toymaker Mattel unveiled a Barbie in Kahlo’s graphic, in excess of protests from her loved ones.

The Barbie and other products do not seize Kahlo’s complicated legacy as a feminist icon, a disabled lady who channeled her pain into art, an ardent communist and an inspiration to the LGBT group, scholars say.

“Frida Kahlo is not a solution or a brand…. Frida Kahlo is not a doll,” said photographer Cristina Kahlo, the artist’s fantastic niece. “For us, it is significant to sustain the graphic of Frida Kahlo as the painter that she was.”

This thirty day period, a new project aims to return the concentration to her art. Alphabet’s Google, performing in collaboration with the Kahlo loved ones, has focused a portion of its Arts and Culture app to the artist’s daily life and do the job.

The look for huge partnered with 33 museums to digitize Kahlo’s most well-known paintings and bring new do the job into the public eye. The app also functions rare letters, diary entries and sketches, in addition to a digital tour of her well-known blue residence.

The Kahlo loved ones played an active role. U.S. artist Alexa Meade and Mexican musician Ely Guerra collaborated on a piece of “living art” honoring Kahlo, performing underneath her fantastic niece’s assistance.

“These jobs that are similar to Frida from a cultural point of check out, spreading her painting, operates and story… are jobs I like and come to feel comfy collaborating in,” Cristina Kahlo said.

The museums and cultural institutions that Google partnered with managed the rights. Google suggests no money adjusted fingers.

Kahlo’s spouse, artist Diego Rivera, set up a have faith in supervised by the Banco de Mexico to run museums focused to the couple’s do the job, and the have faith in also oversees the copyright to the operates.

Kahlo’s brand and graphic are additional contentious. In the early 2000s, a single of Kahlo’s nieces, Isolda Pinedo, and her daughter, Mara Romeo, assigned rights to the Kahlo brand to a company known as the Frida Kahlo Company, in accordance to court papers.

Stress boiled in excess of in March when Mattel unveiled a Kahlo Barbie, accredited by the Frida Kahlo Company.

Cristina Kahlo, fantastic-niece of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, speaks in the course of an job interview with Reuters at the Frida Kahlo Museum, also known as “Casa Azul”, in Mexico Metropolis, Mexico Could 21, 2018. Image taken Could 21, 2018. REUTERS/Gustavo Graf

In a scenario released by loved ones users, a Mexican civil court decide issued a preliminary injunction blocking the sale of the doll and other solutions accredited by the Frida Kahlo Company in Mexico. Mattel asked a federal court to elevate the injunction, and a ruling is predicted in June, a Mattel spokeswoman said.

“This Barbie doll is intended to honor Frida Kahlo’s fantastic legacy and we hope it will be back on shelves in Mexico shortly,” Mattel said in a statement.

Pablo Sangri Gil, a lawyer for Romeo, told Reuters the Barbie was an illustration of the Frida Kahlo Company working without the need of consulting with the loved ones, in violation of the rights agreement.

In flip, the Frida Kahlo Company sued Romeo this thirty day period in a Florida federal court, alleging that she violated the agreement by licensing Kahlo-branded solutions of her personal.

Gil said he experienced not been formally notified of the Florida lawsuit.


The feud underscores the troubles of taking care of celebrity legacies, said Jonathan Faber, CEO of Luminary Group, a licensing business.

Guitarist Jimi Hendrix’s loved ones battled in excess of his graphic, licensing dueling solutions. A memorial fund for Princess Diana tried to block Franklin Mint from advertising dolls and other memorabilia modeled just after the royal, but a U.S. court in the long run allowed the solutions to stay on shelves.

Kahlo, who died at age 47, acquired better prominence with the publication of a landmark biography in the early 1980s, and her attractiveness has only grown considering that.

In contrast with many well-known male artists, Kahlo is improved known for her appearance than her do the job, scholars say. They welcome a return to the art.

Kahlo “has turn out to be a Halloween costume,” said Oriana Baddeley, a professor at College of the Arts London.

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There is irony in her reincarnation at the fingers of Mattel, said Charlene Villasenor Black, an art record professor at the College of California, Los Angeles.

“How many other communist Barbie dolls are there?” she said.

Reporting by Julia Adore Modifying by Cynthia Osterman

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