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CULTURE | 25-08-2022 22:15

US$33-million Frida Kahlo painting becomes Buenos Aires’ new attraction

MALBA modern art in Argentina museum to put record-breaking self-portrait by Frida Kahlo on display; Mexican artist’s creation was purchased last year by Eduardo Constantini and is the highest-priced Latin American artwork in history.

Buenos Aires has a new cultural attraction: Diego y yo, the record-breaking painting by legendary Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

Starting Friday, the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires (MALBA) is opening the 1949 artwork up the viewing public for the next year. 

The painting, which was purchased last November by Argentine businessman and MALBA co-founder Eduardo Constantini at Sotheby's auction house in New York for US$34.9 million, is already hanging in its own special room, next to the other Kahlo from MALBA’s permanent collection: 1942’s Autorretrato con chango y loro.

Also on display is a documentary series, with photographs and other objects, made by Raquel Tibol, the Mexican artist's first biographer.

Diego y yo is the last self-portrait painted by Kahlo before her death in 1954.

The piece arrived in Buenos Aires a few days ago and will be the main attraction of a exhibition, Tercer Ojo, in which Costantini will show off other artworks his private collection, including paintings by Cuban artist Wifredo Lam, the Mexicans Miguel Covarrubias and Rosa Rolanda, and Brazil’s Vicente do Rego Monteiro.


‘A unique artist’

"For me, Frida represents a unique artist. She has a dramatic biography that she tells without any modesty, in a spontaneous, open way. I think that is precisely what people love about her," Costantini said as he gave a tour of the exhibition.

"She handled the technique of portraiture like the best artists in history and used that skill to tell her dramas," she added of the artist who is now considered a feminist icon.

This is the first time that Diego y yo has been on display to the public since 1998, Constantini told the press.

The piece, an oil on wood measuring 30 by 22.4 centimetres, is one of Kahlo's most emblematic works and one of the last she was able to produce before her death in 1954, at the age of 47.

The painting shows Frida Kahlo in tears, and on her forehead, above her bushy eyebrows, is the face of her husband, the Mexican painter and muralist Diego Rivera, who in turn has an eye on his forehead.

"It is an exceptional work by Frida Kahlo, who is a very established artist with a body of work that, while not small, is not very large. It's worth it," María Amalia García, curator of the exhibition, told AFP. 


Intertwined collections

MALBA’s latest exhibition brings together the museum’s permanent collection and Costantini's private collection under the same roof.

"There is the same vision in the creation of these two collections. In that same vision there is an empathy and solidarity between the pieces. The idea is to generate new dialogues between the works," explained García.

The exhibition comprises more than 240 works, many of which have not been shown publicly for 30 years.

"The aim is to disseminate Latin American art," Costantini summarised.

During the presentation Eduardo Costantini referred to the team that helps him daily to choose the works in his collection, from the Acquisitions Committee to García, the Museum's curator, and even Elina, his wife.

MALBA, a private museum created in 2001, treasures some 700 works of the most important Latin American art from the 20th century onwards.



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