FRIDA KAHLO: MAKING HERSELF UP

 

Locked away for 64 years, take a look through Frida Kahlo's rediscovered wardrobe.

 
  Frida Kahlo with Olmec figurine, 1939, photograph by Nickolas Muray © Nickolas Muray Photo Archives

Frida Kahlo with Olmec figurine, 1939, photograph by Nickolas Muray © Nickolas Muray Photo Archives

 
 
  Guatemalan cotton coat worn with Mazatec huipil and plain floor- length skirt. Museo Frida Kahlo.   Both images © Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Archives, Banco de México, Fiduciary of the Trust of the Diego Riviera and Frida Kahlo Museums.

Guatemalan cotton coat worn with Mazatec huipil and plain floor- length skirt. Museo Frida Kahlo. Both images © Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Archives, Banco de México, Fiduciary of the Trust of the Diego Riviera and Frida Kahlo Museums.

This collection demonstrates how through art, and personal style she began to explore and construct her powerful identity and creativity as a means of empowerment.
  Revlon compact and powderpuff with blusher in ‘Clear Red’ and Revlon lipstick in ‘Everything’s Rosy’; emery boards and eyebrow pencil in ‘Ebony’. Before 1954. Photograph Javier Hinojosa.   

Revlon compact and powderpuff with blusher in ‘Clear Red’ and Revlon lipstick in ‘Everything’s Rosy’; emery boards and eyebrow pencil in ‘Ebony’. Before 1954. Photograph Javier Hinojosa.
 

Few people can mistake the artwork and personal style of Frida Kahlo. This summer London's V&A museum will look at the life of this 20th-century icon who's paintings celebrated socialism, gender, identity and class not only through her artwork but also through her unmistakable wardrobe. After her death in 1954, at the request of her husband Diego Rivera her belongings were locked away, where they have remained for 64 years. This collection demonstrates how through art, and personal style she began to explore and construct her powerful identity and creativity as a means of empowerment.

It wasn't Frida's intention to become an artist; an accident was the original catalyst. It forced her on a different path, to look at things from a new angle 'to begin again' painting things just as she saw them, without frills and with naive realism. Her signature style was inspired by nature and the artefacts of Mexico, deeply rooted in the country's popular culture. The world began to take notice and shows were booked. Other contemporary artists such Picasso and Joan Miro received her work warmly. But when she travelled to NY for one of her exhibitions in 1938, it was her Mexican dress that caused a sensation, soon leading her to a feature in Vogue and a Frida-inspired dress by Elsa Schiaparelli. After the accident, Frida also faced physical struggles living in constant pain. Her body was irreplaceably damaged; forcing her to wear plaster corsets to support her back and eventually the amputation of her leg. Both were devastating, leading to depression but through art and decoration of these items, Friday took control of the uncontrollable.

What also fascinates about Frida is that so far after her death, she continues to inspire new generations.

Her tumultuous on-off relationship with Diego Rivera remained her most significant one. Through him, she met a full circle of substantial friends from the art world to politics including the founder of surrealism, André Breton, and Leon Trotsky. After Diego's death in 2004, clothing, jewellery, cosmetics and other personal items were rediscovered and exhibited in Frida's museum. Today, at the V&A, more than 200 articles from Casa Azul will be presented. As well as her wardrobe there will be a series of photographs and self-portraits of Kahlo and Rivera and their wide circle of friends. The exhibition will give us access to the style, the work and the woman bringing a fresh perspective on the life of this captivating and original icon.

  Frida Kahlo, c. 1926. Museo Frida Kahlo.© Diego Riviera and Frida Kahlo Archives, Banco de México, Fiduciary of the Trust of the Diego Riviera and Frida Kahlo Museums.

Frida Kahlo, c. 1926. Museo Frida Kahlo.© Diego Riviera and Frida Kahlo Archives, Banco de México, Fiduciary of the Trust of the Diego Riviera and Frida Kahlo Museums.

  Necklace of silver, enamel, turquoise and coral with   hinged   compartment, made by Matilde Poulat, Mexico City, c.1950. Museo Frida Kahlo. Photograph Javier Hinojosa. © Diego Riviera and Frida Kahlo Archives, Banco de México, Fiduciary of the Trust of the Diego Riviera and Frida Kahlo Museums.

Necklace of silver, enamel, turquoise and coral with hinged compartment, made by Matilde Poulat, Mexico City, c.1950. Museo Frida Kahlo. Photograph Javier Hinojosa. © Diego Riviera and Frida Kahlo Archives, Banco de México, Fiduciary of the Trust of the Diego Riviera and Frida Kahlo Museums.

What also fascinates about Frida is that so far after her death, she continues to inspire new generations. By the 1990's she was recognised not only for her creative talents but as an icon for Chicanos, LGBTQ and feminist movements. In a world where female empowerment could not be more in the forefront of our thinking, this exhibition seems so relevant. 64 years after she left us, Frida is still setting the example, she is nothing short of remarkable.

Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up, 16 June – 14 November 2018. Sponsored by Grosvenor Britain & Ireland.
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