Frida Kahlo / Masterpieces from Museo Dolores
Jul 7 – Nov 4, 2018 / MNG

Frida Kahlo

A retrospective of Frida Kahlo’s life and work is currently on display in the Hungarian National Gallery in Budapest. Over 30 paintings are on loan from the Museo Dolores Olmedo in Mexico City and from private Mexican collectors. The exhibition features the artist’s self-portraits, and includes the Portrait of Alicia Galant, signed in 1927 by the artist as her “very first canvas,” as well as symbolic paintings and portraits inspired by the events in her life, drawings, and photographs of the artist taken by friends and lovers.

 

Frida Kahlo

At the age of 6, Kahlo was stricken with polio, and at 18 was in a bus accident, injuring her pelvis, spine, and one of her legs, leaving her bedridden for weeks and further handicapped for the rest of her life. She turned to painting as a means of therapy and self-expression; in her early years, she spent much time alone and became the “subject [she knew] best”, creating many self-portraits.

 

Frida Kahlo

The curator of the exhibition, Adriána Lantos, stated that the dynamic pieces have been divided into five sections, starting with self portraits and symbolic paintings signifying her tragic adolescence, continuing into fantastical imagery referencing Mexican nature and tradition, through to works related to her passionate and tumultuous relationship with mural artist, Diego Rivera.  Kahlo began transforming her pain into symbolism and dreamscapes, and within the course of her work created an identity for herself.  She was openly bisexual and became an early symbol for contemporary feminist movements because of her depictions of taboo subjects. She expressed herself in art and in life through her sexuality and her dismissal of feminine beauty standards.

 

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo has become a pop culture icon; fans have used her image from the LGBTQ movement to wearing her face on clothing and accessories, as the British Prime Minister Theresa May did during a speech not long ago. After the death of an artist, there comes a tendency for many to break apart the artists’ story and try to fit a piece of it into a present day framework.  May proves that one can enhance their personal rhetoric by removing the image of an artist entirely from who they were and what they originally represented.

Not long after the start of the exhibition in Budapest, an article was published in the Hungarian newspaper Magyar Idok claiming the exhibition contains communist propaganda with the headline ‘This is the way communism is promoted using state money.’ This article parallels recent campaigns and policies against institutions that oppose Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s agenda, policies which include a ban on Gender Studies classes in universities nationwide.

 

Frida Kahlo

It is no secret that Kahlo’s affiliation with the Communist party of Mexico is an element of her arduous story. She had written in her diary and given visual testimony to the Soviet revolution, and hung images of Mao and Marx over her bed, according to a biography published by Mexico’s Museo Frida Kahlo. The article in Magyar Idok also references Kahlo’s relationship with Leon Trotsky, the Russian revolutionary who was a prominent figure in the Bolshevik revolution. After openly opposing Stalin’s policies, Trotsky was exiled to Mexico and taken in by Kahlo, and the two entered into a brief affair. Communist beliefs or not, Kahlo has shown through her works that her interests lie in the representation of Mexican culture and against its colonial appropriation through motifs, style, and political representation of a modern Mexico, as seen in Self-Portrait on the Border Between Mexico and the United States.

 

Frida Kahlo / Self-Portrait on the Border Between Mexico and the United States

Orban recently said in a speech, “An era is determined by cultural trends, collective beliefs and social customs. This is now the task we are faced with: we must embed the political system in a cultural era.” As he stated, art certainly does determine an era, which is why one party should not censor artworks, nor use censoring as a means of advancing a political agenda – this being the very definition of propaganda.  What matters is the ability to have access to all kinds of art, and in Kahlo’s case, to learn of her life experiences as they are represented through her artwork, to recognize what she has done for female empowerment, and to remember her as one of the most prominent artists of the twentieth century.

 

Frida Kahlo / Masterpieces from Museo Dolores
July 7 – November 4, 2018 / MNG, Hungarian National Gallery
Please visit the exhibition page >

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