A few weeks ago I was lucky to visit the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City. Here I discovered the world of Frida and Diego, their home, their collections of art and trinkets, and the incredible artwork they both produced.
It was timely that on the same day I queued outside the vibrant blue La Casa Azul I received an invite to the new London exhibition, Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up. In this show the V&A focusses on Frida’s personal life, displaying previously unseen photographs, her colourful dresses & shawls and a few artworks. Until 2004 Frida Kahlo’s personal belongings were locked away behind her bathroom door, concealed from the world, this is their first outing outside of Mexico.
Frida Kahlo, died aged 47 in 1954. She lived a courageous and passionate live… she survived a bout of Polio as a child and then, when she was 18, was left disabled after a bad bus crash. In this tightly packed exhibition visitors can observe the corsets and body casts, prosthetic leg and medication that was so much part of her every day life. It is a strangely intimate examination of the private struggle with pain and disability that she endured on a daily basis. In the final room her extensive dress collection is on display… here we see the traditional costumes she used to distract away from her ailments. They are iconic and stylish, a presentation of maximalism, which happens to be very current and on trend.
Aside from the relics and artefacts there are a few special paintings and photographs to admire. Bizarrely Frida’s bold paintings seem to be a bit of an afterthought in this exhibition, hung on the wall behind the memorabilia in cabinets, which takes centre stage. After the accident Frida turned to painting to save her from her agony, and creating art was something she continued to relish throughout her short life. Some paintings stick in your mind long after leaving the V&A, I kept remembering ‘Self Portrait as a Tehuana’; a solemn painting where Frida has painted her face encased in a flower-like headdress. There are also some beautiful photographs on display, which offer an insight into she admiration she felt for her photographer father and the adoration of Diego Riviera, her unfaithful husband.
Frida fanatics will delight in this colourful and characterful exhibition, but art fans may feel cheated to not see more of Frida Kahlo’s amazing artistic brilliance.
Continues until Sunday 4 November, book tickets here.