One of the highly anticipated art events will open on June 16 at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. The exhibition Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up features more than 200 objects from Kahlo’s home (Blue House). Personal items such as clothes, letters, jewellery, cosmetics, medicines and medical corsets that were discovered in 2004, 50 years after being sealed in the Blue House by her husband Diego Rivera, the Mexican muralist, following her death in 1954.
The exhibition sets out to explore how Frida Kahlo, one of the most recognized and significant artists of the 20th century, fashioned her identity. It is the first exhibition outside of Mexico to display her clothes and intimate possessions, reuniting them with key self-portraits and photographs to offer a fresh perspective on her compelling life story.
Exploring Kahlo’s highly choreographed appearance and style, these include 22 distinctive colourful Tehuana garments; pre-Columbian necklaces that Frida strung herself; examples of intricately hand painted corsets and prosthetics which will be displayed alongside film and photography of the artist as a visual narrative of her life.
Claire Wilcox, Senior Curator of Fashion at the V&A and exhibition co-curator, said: “A countercultural and feminist symbol, this show will offer a powerful insight into how Frida Kahlo constructed her own identity. This show is a rare opportunity for visitors, offering unique access to an archive that has never left Mexico before.”
Kahlo empowered herself through her art and dress after suffering a devastating near-fatal bus crash at the age of 18, which rendered her bed-bound and immobilized for protracted periods of time. Self-portraiture became the primary focus of her art at this point and she began to paint using a mirror inset into the canopy of her four-poster bed.
The exhibition also explores Kahlo’s Mexico and her sense of cultural pride following the Mexican Revolution (1910-20). An enthusiastic desire to embrace a national identity led to her interest in the art and traditions of indigenous people of the country. Kahlo used her striking appearance as a political statement, crafting her identity to reflect her own mestizo (of mixed race) identity and allegiance to Mexican identity. Mexico flourished in the 1920s and 1930s as a liberal destination that attracted foreign artists, writers, photographers and documentary film makers, in what became known as the Mexican Renaissance.