Things That Matter

Etsy Artist Sues Frida Kahlo Corporation After They Claim Trademark Infringement

Artisan Nina Shope from Denver, Colo. is suing the Frida Kahlo Corporation (FKC) after her handmade Frida Kahlo dolls were flagged for deactivation. Last week, FKC lodged a trademark infringement claim with the popular e-commerce site Etsy.

Shope is demanding that the corporation ask Etsy to rescind its trademark infringement notice. The lawsuit also names a Panamanian organization related to the corporation, Frida Kahlo Investments, S.A. FKC is registered in Panama and has an office in Florida.

“I don’t believe that artists should be bullied or threatened into abandoning their art, silencing their voices, and stifling their creativity. That is the main reason why I am challenging the FKC’s alleged trademark registration, that has been used as a cudgel not only against me, but against a number of other creators and artists,” Shope wrote in a post on Facebook.

The complaint asserts that the FKC “submitted a false trademark takedown to Etsy claiming that Ms. Shope’s non-infringing use was in fact infringing.”

Shope isn’t the only Etsy artist selling Kahlo-inspired items on the site, a search of “Frida Kahlo” brings up more than 19k results while a search for #fridadoll on Instagram has more than 5K results featuring various artistic renderings.

The rights to Kahlo’s image expired in 2004, 50 years after the beloved Mexican artist and feminist icon died, and Isolda Pinedo Kahlo, the artist’s niece, placed a trademark on the name “Frida Kahlo,” and assigned that trademark to the FKC.

In 2018 the Kahlo family won a temporary injunction against toy manufacturer Mattel, forcing it to cease sales of its doll resembling the artist in Mexico as part of their “Inspiring Women” line.  

“I would have liked her to have a unibrow, for her clothes to be made by Mexican artisans. We, the Kahlo family, are the ones who have the rights to all these things,” Mara Cristina Romeo Pinedo, Frida Kahlo’s great-niece and Isolda’s daughter, told the AFP.

The mother and daughter disputed FKC’s rights to the artist’s name and image, demanding a redesign of the Barbie.

Consequently, FKC filed a lawsuit against Romeo Pinedo, alleging that she — who remains a shareholder and director at FKC — became dissatisfied with the group in 2011 and began a campaign to discredit the corporation and take over its role as the licensing agent for commercial products featuring the artist’s name and likeness.

“The Frida Kahlo Corporation actively participated in the process of designing the doll, Mattel has its permission and a legal contract that grants it the rights to make a doll of the great Frida Kahlo,” the company’s statement said.

Unlike Mattel, Shope and the other Etsy shops selling merchandise with her likeness are operating on a creative basis rather than overtly selling items directly connected to Frida or her work.

Shope’s complaint states, “The name of a doll does not violate the Lanham Act [the federal statute for trademarks, service marks, and unfair competition] unless the name has no artistic relevance to the underlying work whatsoever, or, if it has some artistic relevance, unless the title explicitly misleads as to the source or the content of the work. Here, neither concern applies.”

“We believe the doll represents a historical figure—you have to be able to say who that historical figure is without violating trademark. This is a brand new problem in the world of law and the world of art.” After having work removed from Etsy “the only way to get it back up is to sue the rights owner,”  Rachael Lamkin, Shope’s attorney, told ARTnews.

In a statement to ARTnews, a Frida Kahlo Corporation representative said, “We have made a significant investment in protecting the Frida Kahlo legacy, brand, and trademarks. We are prepared to vigorously defend our intellectual property and trademarks whenever our rights have been violated, and to stop any confusion that may be created in the market by such infringing activity.”

As of the time of publishing this post the handmade dolls are still available for purchase starting at $68 and featuring Frida’s signature unibrow.

Shope, who goes by SnapdragonOriginals on Etsy, launched a website detailing the reasons for the lawsuit, which she calls a “scary but exciting path.”

“I never imagined I would end up in litigation, especially against such a powerful corporation. However, I believe in supporting the rights of artists (especially those of us who are small artisans and craftspeople) to create beautiful and meaningful works of art that honor the legacy of Frida Kahlo. Although my Frida art dolls and hoops are not the totality of my collection (I have many folk-art inspired creations that I will later include on this website), they are a core element of what I create,” she wrote. “I will let you know how the lawsuit progresses, and hopefully the results will free more artists to share their visions with all of us.”

This Nude Painting Of Mexican Icon Emiliano Zapata Has Gone Viral But It’s Actually Not Even New

Culture

This Nude Painting Of Mexican Icon Emiliano Zapata Has Gone Viral But It’s Actually Not Even New

Secretaria de Cultura / Fabian Chairez

La Revolución by Chiapas artist Fabian Cháirez depicts Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata riding a white horse. Zapata has his eyes closed as if he was lost in reverie, he’s totally nude, wearing high heels, and a shimmering pink hat — and the horse has a massive erection. 

The painting isn’t new, it is one of 141 works included in the exhibit Zapata Después de Zapata to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the revolutionary’s death. When the Mexican Secretariat of Culture shared the image on Facebook, many users had a polarizing response. Cháirez believes the negative responses are rooted in sexist and homophobic attitudes. 

Zapata’s grandson says he is taking legal action against the National Institute of Fine Arts and Literature. 

“We are not going to allow that. That’s why they’re going to take legal action”. Zapata´s grandson said in a statement. “We came here to exhibit the nonsense they did… to exhibit a photograph of our general (Emiliano Zapata) in Bellas Artes”

One would think the issue a critic would have with the image is that there might be an implication of bestiality. No, according to Zapata’s grandson, Jorge Zapata who held a press conference in Cuernavaca  says the problem is that Cháirez painted him as “gay.” 

“What could we call him? An unknown painter, who I think wants fame… he portrays general Zapata as, gay. So I believe that as a family, as a people, where we are clearly Zapatistas, we are not going to allow that,” Jorge said according to the Yucatan Times

Does Jorge think being gay means two men love each other or that a man and a horse love each other? Jorge appears to be more repulsed by the thought of his grandfather possibly liking another man, more so than him being attracted to a horse. 

“Now we’ve done what’s right, we are going to sue them, and we´ll have demonstrations and hold press conferences. We are going to sue both the painter and the person in charge of Bellas Artes.” Jorge said at the conference. 

Art is subjective and isn’t always meant to be literally interpreted, Cháirez appears to be trying to evoke a feeling and a response from the viewer about what the image might mean rather than creating something intended to be taken at face value. 

Many people on social media were also offended by the painting.

“I truly think that the image is offensive for the Mexican leader and hero. I’m not at all against homosexuality . . . but Zapata deserves respect. He was a leader who fought for land rights and freedom. I will never accept the denigration of his image in this way,” Jonathan Gómez Rios wrote on Facebook.

However, others defended Cháirez’s painting, commending the artist for being able to stir controversy as it was clearly intended. 

“I love that a simple painting causes so much controversy. People argue and seethe because of a painting, A PAINTING! Well done to the Secretariat of Culture and whoever’s behind this post. Congratulations!” said another user on Facebook.

Cháirez speaks out in defense of his work of art. 

“The feminine [form of Zapata] is what causes contempt . . . We’re in a super sexist society. There are some people who are bothered by bodies that don’t obey the norms. [But] in this case, where’s the offense? Are they offended because he’s feminized?” he told El Universal.

Cháirez says portraits of Zapata usually glorify his masculinity, while his own works intend to do just the opposite. According to the Yucatan Times, the Chiapas painter is part of the Neomexicanism movement and his works typically portray bodies in ways that challenge traditional stereotypes about masculinity and social mores about sexual orientation. 

“His piece, ‘The Revolution’ questions the macho stereotypes that make up the national identity and makes visible the movements of sexual diversity,” the Yucatan Times writes. “The image has caused great offense among those who defend the memory of General Emiliano Zapata the ‘Caudillo del Sur’ and reject the idea of portraying him as a homosexual.”

RIP To The $120,000 Art Basel Banana, Man Eats It To Make A Statement

Things That Matter

RIP To The $120,000 Art Basel Banana, Man Eats It To Make A Statement

Cindy Ord / Getty

You read that correctly: a banana duct-taped to a wall sold for $120,000 to a French art collector at Art Basel in Miami Beach and then a man walked right up to it and ate it. Now, we don’t have a $15 minimum wage and the United States’ poorest people paid more in taxes than its billionaires last year, but no need to worry everything is fine. 

The artwork was entitled “Comedian” by Italian artist Maurizo Cattelan. Cattelan is also responsible for creating an 18-karat gold toilet called “America” that was shown in the Guggenheim’s public restroom in 2016. 

Rest assured, this work of art is not about the banana, it’s about the concept — something you don’t need a material object to understand so why buy it, but OK. 

An artist eats the banana and turns the piece into performance art.

Performance artist David Datuna took the duct-taped banana off the wall and ate it on camera. He called the piece “Hungry Artist.” I don’t know which person we should resent more in this scenario, the person who sold the banana, the person who ate the banana, or the person who bought it? Probably, the person who bought it. 

“It’s not about the piece. It’s an art performance. Maurizio Cattelan, I love him. One artist eats another artist. It’s fun,” Datuna said.

It’s always great when rich people can remind us that everything we need like water and agriculture already belongs to us and is being sold back to us at completely arbitrary prices and there’s nothing we can do about it (just kidding vote for a Democrat, that’s something you can do).  

The gallery truly did not care that someone ate his banana. 

Lucien Terras told the New York Post the artwork was still intact because the Certificate of Authenticity that came with the work of art said owners may replace the banana as needed. Not only do you have to $120,000 for this banana, but you also have to keep replacing it for the rest of your life. 

“He did not destroy the artwork. The banana is the idea,” Terras said. “This has brought a lot of tension and attention to the booth and we’re not into spectacles. But the response has been great. It brings a smile to a lot of people’s faces.”

I am not smiling. 

The piece is from Emmanuel Perrotin’s outer gallery wall art at Art Basel and Perrotin was not pleased that his perishable item immediately perished in someone’s belly. According to the New York Post, when he heard the banana had been eaten Perrotin, who was on his way to the airport turned back in fury. An attendee gave him a banana to cheer him up. These are adults. 

People can’t stop talking about how dumb this whole banana thing which just keeps increasing its power. The banana is our king. 

“That banana has been more photographed than the Mona Lisa,” Terras told the Miami Herald in jest.

There were so many people clamoring to take a photo of an ugly banana with duct tape on at Art Basel that police had to come in to do crowd control. 

“This has been interesting,” said Miami Beach police Capt. Steven Feldman. “The gallery is OK with people taking pictures of the banana. It is a delicate balancing act. We just want to make sure the area is secure.”

According to the Miami Herald for $120,000, Cattelan can buy 631,579 bananas at Trader Joe’s. That’s exactly what I would do if I had that money. I’d just buy more bananas, bring them to Art Basel, sell ’em for $120,000 each, boom – it’s called flipping the package, fam. 

On a more serious note, some folks believe the banana does the entire art community a disservice, while other experts wondered if it was a money-laundering scheme (which is not uncommon in the art world according to the New York Times). 

I think we can all agree that whether the art industry is a joke or not is irrelevant to the fact that the joke is always on poor people.