After Frida Kahlo died in 1954 her husband, Diego Rivera, had her clothes, jewellery, makeup, photographs, letters and other personal possessions sealed inside the bathroom of Frida’s home, the Casa Azul (Blue House). In 2004, half a century later, the room was opened, and cataloguing and conservation began. In the decades since her death Kahlo has been recognised as an important artist in her own right, not just an appendage to Rivera, and has become a global icon. The V&A’s exhibition, curated by Circe Henestrosa* and Claire Wilcox, is a fascinating and moving insight into her life and style.
Used to sitting for her photographer father, Frida became her own muse. Her art was her life and her life was her art. Her pride in her cultural identity, her injuries, her inability to have children, her communism, her problematic marriage, her sense of fun – all are expressed in her work and in this show. Frida shocked people, she challenged expectations, and she lived her life in glorious colour and texture, with an earthy realness.
Kahlo lived with disability for most of her life, first as a result of polio when she was six, then from the bus accident when she was 18. It’s one thing to know that, but another thing to see the three dimensional evidence of it up close. In one dreamily-eerie room her orthopaedic corsets and built-up boots are displayed in cases resembling the four poster bed she spent so much time immobilised in. It makes this woman’s body of work and passion for life even more extraordinary. Her paintings are commemorations of what her body and soul have been through, and these items add even more layers to them.
She suffered pain, indignity and heartbreak and she turned it into art.
Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up, 16 June – 4 November 2018.
Sponsored by Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, Aeromexico, Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne and GRoW @ Anneberg.
*Circe Henestrosa also curated ‘Appearances Can Be Deceiving: The dresses of Frida Kahlo’ at Museo Frida Kahlo in 2012:
Part 2 coming later this week.