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Mattel Made A Frida Kahlo Barbie; Her Family Aren’t Happy

In further news: Marina Abramović working on an opera; director of Ghent museum suspended after show including suspected fakes

Courtesy: Mattel; Fair Use

Courtesy: Mattel; Fair Use

Courtesy: Mattel; Fair Use

Mattel, the manufacturers of the Barbie doll, included a Frida Kahlo version in their new series launched on International Women’s Day. Dubbed ‘Inspiring Women’, the new series also includes aviator Amelia Earhart and African American mathematician Katherine Johnston. The doll makers described Kahlo, the Mexican artist who passed away in 1954, as ‘a celebrated artist, activist and symbol of strength’. But Kahlo’s great-niece Mara Romeo has criticized the doll’s appearance, and her lawyer claims that Mattel did not have the rights to use Kahlo’s image for the doll. Mattel claim that it sought permission from the Frida Kahlo Corporation to make the doll. Meanwhile the V&A in London has announced that Kahlo’s personal belongings, including a prosthetic leg, are to go on show for the first time outside Mexico, with an exhibition launching in June.

Marina Abramović has announced that she is to turn her Seven Deaths project into an opera. The production will launch at the Munich Opera House in 2020, before travelling to London’s Covent Garden. Seven Deaths was originally intended as a film, with major film directors commissioned to direct a scene each. That script, by Petter Skavlan, is now being reworked for the opera. The forthcoming production will be directed by Abramović, with the artist also playing the celebrated opera singer Maria Callas, dying in seven operas, including Madame Butterfly and Tosca

Catherine de Zegher, director of Ghent’s Museum of Fine Arts, has been temporarily ‘put aside' by the Belgian institution after a meeting of the board of directors. City councillor Annelies Storms said that the board ‘lacks trust’ in de Zegher. She is currently under investigation regarding the museum’s loan exhibition ‘From Bosch to Tuymans: A Vital Story’ which included Russian avant-garde works from the Toporovsky collection, which experts have claimed contains several fakes. The Toporovsky collection’s works were on show in the museum, before being removed in January following experts questioning the artworks. De Zegher told Ghent politicians that she had consulted with Magdalena Dabrowski and Noemi Smolik, but the art historians later told local press that they had not been involved with preparations for the show. Speaking to frieze, Smolik said that the first time she heard about the collection, the key question in her mind was regarding its authenticity: ‘I was in no way involved in the decision of showing them.’ Smolik said that debate around the works’s authenticity would have to await chemical analysis.

New York’s Guggenheim Museum is acquiring a piece from its landmark survey of Chinese contemporary art, ‘Art and China after 1989’. Xu Bing’s 1994 A Case Study of Transference ended up being removed from the show after criticism of the show’s treatment of animal rights. The work is a video of a performance staged by the Chinese artist in which two pigs mate, while stamped with fake Chinese and English characters. Don’t miss Tausif Noor writing on how the controversy around the Guggenheim’s exhibition highlights animal rights activists as one of art’s most ‘engaged’ audiences.

Over 50 prominent art professionals have released an open letter in support of the soon to be ousted director of CAPC, Museum of Contemporary Art of Bordeaux, María Inés Rodríguez. The letter, published in French on the Libération website and in English here, states: ‘In France, there is a penury of female directors, presidents, and heads of cultural institutions and this announcement marks a further regression in parity in the strikingly masculine French art world’. The statement registers concern over statements by Bordeaux’s Deputy Mayor for Culture and Heritage, Fabien Robert (including his questioning ‘whether contempoorary art still exists’), and signatories include Christian Boltanski, Chantel Crousel, Francis Morris and Hans-Ulrich Obrist. You can read it in full here.

Over the weekend, photograper Nan Goldin and her activist group Prescription Addiction Intervention Now (P.A.I.N) held a ‘die-in’ at the Sackler Wing of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art – protesting the prominent Sackler family of philanthropists and their role in the pharmaceutical company Purdue which manufactures the controversial opioid Oxycontin. Read our full report here.

In recent appointments: David Roberts Art Foundation have named Fatoş Üstek as director, leading its contemporary art programme in the UK; Sotheby’s press office director Sarah Rustin is heading to Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac as global director of communications and marketing, based in London; and Christina Yu Yu has been appointed Chair of Asian Art at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

In gallery movements: Hauser & Wirth has added Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi to its roster (Zeng is also represented by Gagosian and ShanghART), with an exhibition planned for later this year; Galerie Nagel Draxler will open a permanent space in Cologne, alongside its two spaces in Berlin – the new location will be designed by Roger Bundschuh Architects; and Perrotin gallery is extending its Asia operations, with a new outpost in Shanghai opening this September, situated in the Bund district.

Finally, Angelica Mesiti has been selected to represent Australia at the 2019 Venice Biennale. Don’t miss our recent feature on Mesiti’s work, looking at how her films explore the myriad ways humans communicate, filled with tender moments which evoke ‘the complex simplicity of an encounter between living beings’.

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