Focusing on the life of Kahlo (1907, 1910 according to her because of the Mexican Revolution - 1954) and her suffering instead of her art, this exhibition full of memories shows the visionary brilliance of the Mexican.
To think of Frida Kahlo and her body is to think of devastation. Polio left her disabled. A bus accident at age 18 almost killed her, leaving her in bed for long periods of time and with unimaginable and chronic pain. At the age of 46 years, her right leg was amputated. And then there is, of course, Diego Rivera, her husband who in life was much more famous than her but today he is much less revered. It is precisely this pain, the epicentre of this new exhibition "Frida Kahlo: Making Herself Up" at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. The visitors find this pain through the showcases that show drugs and orthopaedic prostheses, corsets and crutches and through the letters, writings, paintings and photos on the walls.
It is true that this exhibition is about grief, but also optimism and courage. Kahlo was brave. She was a revolutionary, a passionate lover, a daring artist. Kahlo was, as this exhibition reveals, someone who suffered, a lot. However, she was also a creator. Frida lived dying. She transfigured her life in visionary paintings, although her works are in the background of this exhibition.
The photographs shown are extraordinary testimonies. Frida's father was a German photographer and she helped him pose, develop and retouch his photographs. They were united by the disease: his epilepsy and her polio. Their connection is implicit in a family photo –one of my favourites– with her German grandparents, Mexican matriarchs and all of Frida's sisters, including Cristina, who would have an affair with Diego Rivera... looking closely at the photo one wonders "where is Kahlo?" It turns out that she is the young man dressed in a suit of his father, whom she looks intensely while leaning on the shoulder of an offended relative.
Recognisable by her unique and brazen eyebrow, Frida Kahlo challenged the limitations of her physical form in art, in life and even in death, as the painter and Mexican military David Alfaro Siqueiros wrote that "when the iron that held her body entered in the crematorium, the flames lit her hair and her face looked like a smiling sunflower". This great female artist has been rewritten by history on numerous occasions, first she was considered an overvalued artist (erroneous, by the way) and now as a feminist icon (even more wrong I would say) and a fashionable influencer.
This exhibition not only shows the Frida who once lived but the Frida who lives in our imagination, the imagination of the public. It is a sanctuary for her memory, for the great artist she was and for the inspiration that she is.
"Frida Kahlo: Making Herself Up" is at the Victoria & Albert Museum from June 16 to November 4.