The Scuderie del Quirinale hosts a magnificent exhibition on the life and work of the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), a symbol of the artistic avant-garde and of the exuberance of Mexican culture in the 20th century.
There can be no doubt that the legend which has grown around the life and work of Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) has now reached global proportions; the unquestioned icon of 20th century Mexican culture and the seductive subject of a Hollywood movie, Frida Kahlo's contribution to contemporary culture comprises one of the most inextricable tangles of art and life of the whole of the 20th century. Yet her paintings do not merely mirror her life, severely marked as it was by the physical and psychological injuries that she suffered in the terrible accident in which she was involved at the age of seventeen. Her art is fused with the history and spirit of her contemporary world, reflecting the social and cultural transformations that led to the Mexican Revolution and ensued in its wake.
It was precisely the revolutionary spirit that prompted her to reassess the country's native past and traditions, which she considered to be irrepressible identity codes, generating an unprecedented fusion between self-expression and the language, the imagination, the colors and the symbols of Mexican popular culture. At the same time, Frida is an expression of the artistic avant-garde and the cultural exuberance of her time, and a study of her work allows us to intercept the trajectories of all the most important international cultural movements that criss-crossed the Mexico of her day, from Revolutionary Pauperism to Stridentism and from Surrealism to what was become known decades later as Magical Realism.
The exhibition sets out to gather around a corpus of her work, a selection of absolute masterpieces from major collections, key works belonging to other public and private collections in Mexico, the United States and Europe. The project is completed by a selection of photographs portraying the artist, including those taken by Nickolas Murray in the 1940s, a crucial and intriguing complement to Frida Kahlo's art in terms of her iconographic codification. This, because while the exhibition sets out to present and explore the development of Frida Kahlo's artistic career from beginnings that still owe a debt to New Objectivity and to Magical Realism to her revival of traditional and ancestral art, and from the echoes of American Realism in the 1920s and '30s (Edward Hopper, Charles Sheeler, Georgia O'Keefe) to the ideological and political aspects inspired by Mexican muralism (Rivera, Orozco), the predominant theme in the exhibition is self-depiction, both in terms of the numerically important role that the "self-portrait" genre plays in her overall output and, above all, in terms of the unique significance that it has acquired in the transmission of the iconographical, psychological and cultural values that have shaped the "legend of Frida".
Both the exhibition and the catalogue are designed and curated by Helga Prignitz-Poda, a distinguished expert in the life and career of Frida Kahlo and the co-author, together with Salomon Grimberg and Andrea Kettenmann, of the catalogue raisonné of the artist's work published in 1988.
Frida Kahlo, “Selfportrait with crown of thorns” , 1940 Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin © Banco de México Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, México D.F., by SIAE 2013