Turning the Frida Kahlo legacy into a brand name tequila is the final straw when it comes to “Fridamania,” the cult promoted by the unscrupulous that the artist railed against her entire life.
Isolda P. Kahlo, the niece of the famed Mexican painter and the founder of “The Frida Kahlo Corporation,” is marketing Frida Kahlo Tequila, claiming the right to license products using the artist’s name and image. The clear glass bottles of tequila are ornamented with a portrait photo of Kahlo on the label, her image surrounded by garlands of flowers, and a wooden bottle stopper engraved with the artist’s image.
Art critic and author Raquel Tibol, who befriended Kahlo at the end of the artist’s life, displayed outrage over the painter’s niece exploiting the legacy of Kahlo:
“This is a dirty shame! Who gave them permission to use her name? Isolda has gone mad in her desire to make money from her family name. This time she’s stepped over the line, it’s a total lack of respect!”
Tibol’s criticism is well founded. In 1955, just a few years before his death, Diego Rivera established the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, an institution run by the Banco De Mexico. The trust was created to hold the works, possessions, and homes of the two artists as a public treasure. It would appear the trust is the only organization authorized to legally give permission to use Kahlo’s name for commercial purposes, or as Tibol put it, “According to the will of Diego Rivera and the establishment of the Foundation, all profitable use of Frida Kahlo must go to the Foundation.”
Author Martha Zamora, who wrote a biography of Kahlo – Frida: El Pincel del la Angustia (Frida: The Brush of Anguish,) agreed that the artist’s name, image, and works should be controlled by the Mexican State as the people’s national treasure; adding that the artist’s legacy should be “treated with care because of its strong ties with Mexican culture.”
Art historian Teresa del Conde told the Mexican newspaper El Universal, the Frida Kahlo Corporation was guilty of unethical actions, and called for an investigation into the company’s licensing irregularities. Del Conde said, “Frida Kahlo is the central selling point to this product, and if she knew what was going on with her name, poor thing, I imagine that her ashes would burst out of the urn they rest in.”
Isolda P. Kahlo and her Frida Kahlo Corporation are marketing lies when they equate Frida’s consumption of tequila with “her love for Mexico, her strength and her passion for life. Tequila, her favorite drink, accompanied her in the greatest moments of her life.” The idea of the artist’s alcoholism being somehow romantic could not be further from the truth. It was not a sense of romanticism that led Kahlo to drink a bottle of tequila a day, but the debilitating pain she endured from the accident suffered in her youth. Add to that the grief she experienced with husband Diego, and it’s plain to see that drink was not so much a pleasure for Frida as it was an escape.
Those behind Frida Kahlo Tequila do not possess even a modicum of respect for her legacy, nor do they have the slightest understanding of the artist’s accomplishments and the ideals she stood for. The tequila venture is purely profit driven – art be damned. This should be evident when looking at the photos taken at the launch party for Frida Kahlo Tequila.
That social event for culture vultures took place in Los Angeles, California on November 15th, 2005, at the grand estate of Michael Scott. After viewing the photos of the gringolandia gala, could anyone possibly imagine Kahlo tolerating being in the same room with such people for more than a minute?
US distribution of Frida Kahlo Tequila will be handled by Southern Wine & Spirits, and the 100% pure blue agave cactus spirit will be sold in fine shops and restaurants. As with other brands of tequila, Frida Kahlo Tequila is offered in three colors and flavors; blanco, reposado and añejo (costing $50, $65 and $90 respectively). There is only one real flavor being presented here, that of pitiless exploitation. The proper way to honor the legacy of the painter is to boycott the tequila that bears her name.