In Brief

A New Barbie Doll Channels Andy Warhol

Mattel's new Andy Warhol-inspired Barbie doll (Courtesy Mattel)
Mattel’s new Andy Warhol–inspired Barbie doll (image via instyle.com)

Leave it to Mattel, the maker of the Barbie doll, to fulfill Andy Warhol’s famous wish to be plastic.

According to InStyle, the children’s toy company has collaborated with the Andy Warhol Foundation to produce a Barbie doll that has all of Andy’s signature traits, from the white wig and sunglasses to the leather jacket and black-and-white striped shirt. It’s Warhol as we know him — with the addition of impossibly long legs, a teeny tiny waist, a disproportionately large bust, and thick, permanent eyeliner.

Warhol was actually fascinated by Barbies. He painted one the year before he died, “Barbie, Portrait of BillyBoy*” (1986), which was inspired by a young jewelry designer and muse who owned tens of thousands of Barbies. He also painted figurative ones — women like Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy who are still widely known for their physical images, outfits, and accessories.

So, what does it mean that Warhol has taken the form of a plastic doll that’s hollow through and through? It’s tempting to philosophize about the deeper connection between a toy that’s come to represent superficiality and an artist who claimed to be a “deeply superficial” person (despite the complex biographies his life has inspired).

But it’s best not to think too hard about it. The doll (and the “lifestyle collection” that goes along with it) is just the latest in a string of consumer items — from graphic tees to designer purses — that capitalize on the selling power of Warhol’s iconic likeness and art … or, as Ron Robinson, whose stores in Malibu and Los Angeles are the sole brick-and-mortar-carriers of the Warhol Barbie, told Women’s Wear Daily, it’s perfect for “the hip, cool person who just wants something really unique.” Just in time for Christmas.

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