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Frida Kahlo already popular at museum gift shop, weeks ahead of Norton’s exhibit

Posted at 6:00 AM, Sep 07, 2021

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The work of Frida Kahlo, one of the most well-known artists in history, will be on display in October at the Norton Museum of Art, and there are already signs of the excitement among visitors.

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) was a Mexican painter known for her colorful portraits and self-portraits. October 23, 2021, the Norton Museum of Art will open the exhibit, “Friday Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Mexican Modernism from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection.” It will run through February 6, 2022.

The gift shop at the Norton often starts selling objects related to exhibits weeks or months in advance of an opening to test the waters on what customers might enjoy. Director of Retail Operations, Kristen Cahill, says she’s already had to order some of the Frida Kahlo objects three and four times over, even though there aren’t any pieces by Kahlo or Rivera on the walls of the museum yet.

“I have to keep re-ordering some of these items that I’ve had in stock just as a feeler. There’s always a good way of testing the waters, and that’s what I usually do. About three months before an exhibit I start to bring in, trickling in some of the product, and see what works, see what doesn’t work,” she explained.

Cahill says she’s tasked with finding the right items that strike a note with the wide variety of guests who will step inside.

“In the museum store, when you buy, you have to buy for a wide range of an audience, you have to buy for that person who wants to just spend 5 or 6 dollars on a magnet or some note cards, and then there’s the people who really want to get something very special. Precious, maybe handmade, and something wearable. And you have to think of that market too. And so I think we try to do that here in the store,” Cahill explained.

Books are always a big seller with any exhibit, but in this case there are children’s toys and games, crocheted dolls and decorated socks with Kahlo’s likeness. Mugs with a contemporary artist’s rendition of a Kahlo portrait on the outside also display a famous Kahlo quote on the inside. The mugs have been one of the hottest sellers so far.

Cahill also has plans for wearable items, imported from artisans in Mexico, like handmade silver jewelry. Mexican huipil blouses that are updated with a current fashion eye are an intentional choice to strike a note between the traditional and the modern; a juxtaposition Cahill points out is often seen in Kahlo’s body of work.

Cahill plans to enhance the gift shop even more for this particular exhibit.

“The goal is to give our visitors who are coming in an experience, I just want them to have an experience, so we have an artist, a local artist, who is painting two murals. One is of the Frida self-portrait with monkeys but without Frida in it,” Cahill explained.

The second mural will resemble the floral wallpaper background of a famous photograph of Kahlo. Visitors of all ages will be encouraged to try on fashion and pose for selfies in front of the colorful murals.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m visualizing our customers coming in doing Instagram selfies, sending out to friends and wearing Frida clothing. You know, why not? You know, fashioning Frida,” Cahill said.

The gift shop, the restaurant and a large sitting area at the Norton Museum of Art are all open to visitors for free without the price of admission.

There are enhanced safety protocols currently in place for all who step inside the Norton. That includes required face coverings and temperature checks. Some visitors can get in for free on certain days or with certain valid ID.