In case there remained some doubt that any artist’s work can be recuperated and assimilated by the masters of capitalism, I present the Barbie Collector Museum Edition which has found a whole new way to exploit dead artists. Living artists: all you have to do is die and stay that way for a few centuries while your work accumulates value and is at length immortalised (and presumably– cheekily– trademarked) by Mattel, Inc.
“Leonardo da Vinci Barbie doll evokes the mysterious Mona Lisa with her enigmatic expression, long flowing hair, and brocade gown featuring a laced satin bodice with beautifully detailed sleeves.” “Gustav Klimt Barbie doll echoes the artist’s portrait, Adele Bloch-Bauer I, reflecting the painting’s Byzantine mosaics and Egyptian motifs.”
Most horrifying of all, there’s the “Barbie doll inspired by Vincent Van Gogh” which “captures the mood of the magnificent masterpiece, ‘The Starry Night.’ She wears a strapless cocktail dress with a Cypress tree accent in black flock fabric, and the swirling patterns of the painting are echoed in her circular earrings, molded metallic sandals, and wavy hair.”
With either a total lack of irony or balls the size of an elephant’s, Mattel have appropriated the (at one time reviled and virtually worthless) work of an anguished mentally ill man who is equally famous for [a] barely selling any work while he was alive and [b] cutting off part of his own ear after an altercation with a prostitute. And they’ve appropriated it in the anachronistic and yet strangely appropriate form of a doll who looks like a Marcel-waved Manhattan Party Girl from the 1950s, i.e. a high class prostitute.
I’m sure the bloody and disconcerting Marina Abramovic Barbie is already in the pipeline, but what about a Cindy Sherman Barbie? Or a Hans Bellmer Barbie? Chapman Brothers Barbie-Ken? Matthew Barney Barbie caked in Vaseline? Frida Kahlo Barbie Bus Stop Play Set? Where are Drinking Himself to Death with An Income From His Rich Parents Ken? Sentimental Misogynist Pre Raphaelite Ken? Francis Bacon Ken with matching Rough Trade Ken?