Frida Kahlo exhibit, revealing personal effects instead of art, breaks records in London

Frida Kahlo with Olmec figurine, 1939. Photo: Nickolas Murray Photo Archives via V&A Museum
Frida Kahlo with Olmec figurine, 1939. Photo: Nickolas Murray Photo Archives via V&A Museum

The exhibition “Frida Kahlo: Making Herself Up” is breaking records in London.

The Victoria & Albert Museum pre-sold more than 20,000 tickets and breaking records on the first day of the exhibition in June. Frida’s show sold more tickets in a single minute and in a single day, said V&A spokeswoman Elisabeth Lastschenko.

In late summer, the show continues to pack ’em in. The museum expanded its hours in August to accommodate visitors.

The exhibit is an intimate one, revealing personal items that were sealed in her house for more than 50 years — are being seen outside Mexico for the first time. Among the items are clothes, jewelry, makeup and her red-leather-booted prosthetic leg.

“This feels wrong,” responded Jonathan Jones, a Guardian art critic. “I am looking at Frida Kahlo’s prosthetic leg. There is a glamorous red boot on it. The matching boot is also in the display case, yet the woman who wore the leg and boots is long gone. She died in 1954, when she was 47. Would she want her artificial limb to outlive her like this?”

“This exhibition overwhelms Kahlo’s living legacy with its excessive adoration of a dead woman’s stuff,” Jones concludes. The public appears fascinated nonetheless.

The exhibition presents nearly 200 personal objects of the iconic painter: excerpts from her diaries, never-published drawings, letters and even medicine bottles hinting her health struggles.

“Frida Kahlo: Making Herself Up” is at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, until Nov. 4.

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