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Thursday, May 19, 2005

Photographing Frida Kahlo

Guardian | Photographing Frida Kahlo: "At the famous Blue House in Mexico City, where Frida Kahlo was born and died, a curator has begun to catalogue hundreds of treasures recently discovered in a locked bathroom. A pair of boots, reinforced with steel to help Kahlo walk, are caked in mould; there is a dusty pickled foetus in a jar, donated to the childless artist by her doctor. A single earring has been found - an ivory hand given to Kahlo by Picasso when she visited Paris; 180 of her moth-eaten signature Tehuantepec dresses have been unearthed, along with 26,000 letters and documents. Kahlo died in 1954 and instantly became an icon. How could all these things, relating to one of the most over-exposed artists of the past century, have just surfaced in the very place that has become a shrine to her?

In 1958, after the death of Kahlo's husband, the rotund muralist Diego Rivera, the Blue House was turned into the Frida Kahlo Museum by Rivera's wealthy patron and executor, Dolores Olmedo Pati´┐Żo. She owned 25 of Frida's darkest and most famous paintings (on show next month at a new Kahlo retrospective at Tate Modern), which Olmedo crammed into a small room of her sumptuous 16th-century hacienda, also now a museum, mostly given over to showing Rivera's work. The eccentric Olmedo was openly dismissive of Kahlo's work, referring to it as 'trashy'. She acquired her masterpieces, she admitted, only because Rivera begged her to. 'Otherwise I would not have done it,' she told the New York Times. 'I did not get along with Frida. She liked women and I liked men, and I was not a communist.' (The paintings cost Olmedo a total of $1,600; five years ago, one Kahlo self-portrait sold for $5m.)"

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