November 24, 2005

Latest Frida merchandise sparks debate in Mexico

By Anahi Rama

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The mass marketing of Mexican
painter Frida Kahlo's image has sparked debate in her homeland
as a company plans to sell dolls in her likeness in December.

A Mexican doll maker will launch the 20-inch (50-cm) Kahlo
replicas in Mexico, the United States, Canada, Germany, France
and Spain, said Mara de Anda, a descendant of the legendary

A line of jewelry, clothing and even a tequila with the
artist's name have been marketed by her family in recent years
after her niece, Isolda Pinedo Kahlo, obtained rights to
register the name as a brand.

Some critics see it as exploitation of Kahlo's name for
personal gain. But her family says the marketing promotes the
artist and Mexican culture.

"We know there are people who will not like it and they are
within their rights to think what they want. We are looking
after Frida's image," de Anda, Isolda's granddaughter, told
Reuters on Thursday.

"We do it for Mexico, for the culture, so people know more
about our traditions," she said.

The dolls wear the traditional Mexican costumes favored by
Kahlo, who was known for her distinctive dark eyebrows and a
touch of facial hair.

Kahlo was married to the famous muralist Diego Rivera,
whose work did not receive world renown until decades after her
death in 1954.

Martha Zamora, Kahlo's biographer, is not completely
opposed to commercializing the artist's image, but said the
Mexican state and not the family should control it.

"The government should have conserved the name under its
protection, because by allowing (the family) to register it
they can do a lot of things," she said.

Raquel Tibol, an art critic who lived with Kahlo, told the
daily La Jornada the government should have taken better care
of the artist's image and protected it against her family's
marketing "perversions."

"Fridamania" has raised Kahlo's image to mythic proportions
around the world in the past 25 years, with the release of
movies and books about the artist and products bearing her
image, but she did not become a brand name until recently.

Kahlo was a militant Communist who, with Rivera, helped win
approval from the government to allow Russian revolutionary
Leon Trotsky to take refuge in Mexico from Soviet dictator
Joseph Stalin. Kahlo became Trotsky's lover for a time.