Sunday, November 28

The Guardian’s view of Frida Kahlo: forging her own identity

A late self-portrait by Frida Kahlo sold this week at a New York auction house for $ 34.9 million. This makes her the most expensive Latin American artist of all time and puts her husband Diego Rivera in the shade, whose reputation and prices once surpassed hers. Nearly 70 years after her death at the age of 47, Kahlo has become one of the most famous self-portrayed faces in art. Her face with its confrontational gaze and the famous mono-brow is just as recognizable as that of Rembrandt or Warhol.

Kahlo was a great artist. Not that auction prices are the measure of quality; rather, on this overwhelming level, they reflect the scarcity and desirability of an artist for a small part of the global super-rich. (The painting Diego and I was purchased by Argentine businessman and collector Eduardo Costantini.) But the rise in their prices from tens of thousands of dollars in the 1980s to tens of millions of dollars also reflects Kahlo’s assimilation from the narrow channels of art history into the broad ones Popular culture flow.

Kahlo, whose life and art were the subject of major exhibitions in London and New York in 2018, has become one Perennial fashion inspirationwho was just as influential to designers in her own way as Grace Kelly. Her face adorns household goods and clothing; it has become effective a brand.

Her face could even be seen on one Armband worn by Theresa May while delivering her most disastrous speech – the Conservative Conference keynote speech of 2017, when the then Prime Minister was attacked by a coughing fit, presented a P45 by a comedian and staged, as letters forming a slogan, attached to the wall behind it they slowly drifted to earth. For imaginative people, Ms. May could almost have been cursed by the shadow of Kahlo – a communist and Trotsky’s lover with a card – who would surely have been outraged by the idea of ​​her physiognomy on the wrist of a Tory prime minister.

Kahlo appeals to a young, global generation of feminists: their defiant self-presentation seems to fit the current moment perfectly. Her unmistakable beauty was entirely her own, untamed by traditional ideals of femininity or conventional notions of sexual attractiveness. (Salma Hayek, who played her in a 2002 biopic, recently called back that Harvey Weinstein, the film’s producer, scolded when she was rescheduled for the role, saying, “I didn’t hire you to look ugly!”)

Her sense of style was completely self-created, rejected the fashion of the time and asserted her cultural identity by getting dressed the colorful traditional style of the Mexican Tehuana women. Her creativity was fought hard through the physical pain of polio and disability from a near-fatal traffic accident; her strength, so evident in her self-portraits, was forged in vulnerability. It’s a highly potent mix. And although it is possible to find their cultural ubiquity – and popular Focus on your private life – Playing down her status as a great artist, there are many worse people in the world who strive to emulate than this creator than she Writer Jennifer Higgie put it, “Angry, troubled joy”.

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