Catholics Force Closing of Religious Barbie Doll Exhibition

Argentinian expo will not show Ken as a crucified Jesus. Probably sensible.

Marianela Perelli and Pool Paolini's Barbie Dolls. Photo courtesy of Marianela Perelli and Pool Paolini.

Under pressure from religious groups, an exhibition at POPA gallery in Buenos Aires featuring Barbie and Ken dolls reimagined as religious figures such as Jesus, the Virgin Mary, Buddha, and the Hindu goddess Kali has been cancelled, reports the AFP.

Titled “Barbie: The Plastic Religion,” the show, from Argentinian artists Marianela Perelli and Pool Paolini, was to feature 33 sculptures of the famed Mattel doll transformed into religious figurines. Despite Barbie’s chameleon-like ability to fit into any role, from a US president to a hula dancer to an astronaut, the world doesn’t appear to be ready for Barbie the Virgin Mary or Joan of Arc.

“The artists were threatened by Argentinian Catholic groups that were going to come the day of the opening,” gallery director Marcelo Bosco told the AFP about the decision to cancel the show ahead of its planned October 11 opening. “Everything has been suspended for security reasons.” A statement on POPA’s website explains: “The gallery laments this situation and hopes it will resolve itself soon.”

Marianela Perelli and Pool Paolini, Barbie as Our Lady of Guadalupe, from "Barbie: The Plastic Religion." Photo: Mike Mozart.

Marianela Perelli and Pool Paolini, Barbie as Our Lady of Guadalupe, from “Barbie: The Plastic Religion.” Photo: Mike Mozart.

Perelli and Paolini appear to be surprised by the backlash over their work, which includes a crucified Ken doll and Our Barbie of Guadalupe. The artists told AFP they feel “misunderstood” and “unfairly attacked,” pointing out that they chose not to portray Ken as Muhammad out of respect for Muslims, and that they did not to intend to offend any religion with the dolls.

It’s not just Catholics up in arms about the exhibition. A group of Hindus also object to Barbie costumed as the Hindu goddess Kali. “Hindus welcome the art world to immerse in Hinduism but taking it seriously and respectfully and not for refashioning Hinduism concepts and symbols for personal agendas. Barbie-fication of Kali is simply improper, wrong and out of place,” Rajan Zed, a Hindu cleric and notable interfaith leader, told Vancouver Desi.

Now, a year’s worth of work will not see the light of day. “There is just one of each. They are sculptures. They are pieces of art and can’t be replicated,” Perelli lamented in an interview with Reuters.

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