New Frida Kahlo-Inspired Makeup Line Appears to Erase the Artist’s Iconic Unibrow

In further news: Ai Weiwei wins court case against VW; proposal for Boston slave auction block memorial withdrawn

Courtesy: Ulta Beauty

Courtesy: Ulta Beauty

The battle over Frida Kahlo’s famous unibrow continues. Last year Mattel, the manufacturers of Barbie, launched a Frida Kahlo version of the doll on International Women’s Day – which soon attracted criticism for subjecting the figure of the famed Mexican artist and ardent communist to problematic beauty standards (including the removal of her unibrow). This week, the Frida Kahlo Corporation, who hold the official license for commercial products using Kahlo’s name and face, revealed a new makeup line, produced by Ulta Beauty, ‘inspired by Frida’s strength’. The announcement came under fire from fans of the artist for using a likeness of the artist with much of her facial hair apparently erased, including her unibrow – though the beauty company insists that ‘the images of Frida are originals with no alteration to her likeness, including her signature unibrow’.

The Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei has won a legal battle over a Volkswagen advertisement which used one of his artworks in a background scene without permission. Ai took VW’s Danish distributor Skandinavisk Motor to court after his artwork Soleil Levant (2017) – which displayed 3,500 refugee life jackets across the windows of Copenhagen’s Kunsthal Charlottenborg – appeared in a Volkswagen Denmark advertisement in October 2017. A Copenhagen court awarded the artist USD$258,000 in damages – the court’s decision stated that ‘this market exploitation of Ai Weiwei’s artwork was in clear contradiction with the considerations and thoughts that were behind the work and the detailed content of the work. The exploitation caused a certain risk of diluting Ai Weiwei’s artwork and had the character of a parasite on Ai Weiwei’s good name and reputation.’

Artist Steve Locke has cancelled his plans for a slave auction block memorial, which would have been located at Boston’s Faneuil Hall marketplace – where slave auctions were held until the state’s abolition of slavery in 1783. Locke cited opposition to the project from the local NAACP chapter in his announcement that he was pulling the project. In an email to the artist, the president of the civil rights organization’s Boston branch, Tanisha M. Sullivan, said: ‘I want to be clear that the work we do every day through the NAACP Boston Branch is centred on uplifting and advancing communities of colour, with a focus on the Black community in the City of Boston […] It is for that reason that we object to the installation of a slave auction block memorial in front of Faneuil Hall and have made those objections known.’

In further news: The Weston, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, has made the shortlist for the RIBA Stirling Prize 2019; Aimee Lin has been appointed director of Long March Space, Beijing; and artists Bethany Collins and Brendan Fernandes are the recipients of Artadia’s 2019 Chicago awards.

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Janiva Ellis, Catchphrase Coping Mechanism, 2019, oil on linen, 2.2 x 1.8 m. Courtesy: the artist and 47 Canal, New York; photograph: Joerg Lohse

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