Frida Kahlo, La Amada: how she became the most expensive Latin American artist in history

Durante la semana el empresario argentino Eduardo Costantini pagó casi USD 35 millones por Diego y yo, un autorretrato de Frida Kahlo, que fue subastado en Estados Unidos, estableciendo un récord para una obra de un artista latinoamericano y, a su vez, cuadruplicando el anterior máximo histórico de la propia pintora mexicana de USD 8 millones, logrado en 2016.

The work of small dimensions -30 centimeters high and 22.4 wide- is a self -portrait, something classic in Kahlo's work, which already had a "record" story, when in 1990 it reached the USD 1.4 million, which then assumed the first time that the million was exceeded on a bid for an artist from the region.So why is this piece - which is not one of the most important of the Mexican - passed from one million to 35 in 20 years? Why is Frida still captivating so much?

Answering these questions is not so simple and there are several conditions that led to this situation, which range from some historical points about the consideration of modern art in this century with respect to the 20th, as well as a certain social moment with feminism, without leavingOn the side, Kahlo's own work or life, since in his case there is a strange phenomenon in the world of painting, that of a historical biography like no other.Let's go by points.

To begin with, Costantini himself is passionate about Kahlo's work. Cuando fundó, hace 20 años, el MALBA, Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, donó una parte de su colección privada, y entre aquellas 223 obras se encontraba Autorretrato con chango y loro, que se convirtió en centro de atención del espacio.

“Frida is one of my favorite artists, what happens to me with her is also something that happens universally.Creates a lot of empathy, a lot of love.First for being a woman, because of her fragility, suffering and how she expressed it to the skin.In addition, he had the genius to make this suffering something magical when creating such a body of work. Fue una innovadora al hacer una autobiografía a través de la imagen, a través de esa sucesión de autorretratos”, explicó Costantini a Infobae Cultura tras la histórica subasta de Diego y yo.

He added: “People die from their history, he was an artist and not only his personal life is dramatic, but his biography does it through painting and that is unique.Its self -portraits already have a seal, a huge creativity.In addition to being a technically excellent artist, the charisma that puts on the fabric...It is not a mechanical thing and in turn tells its story with the drama that we all know. Está todo a flor de piel y entonces la gente se engancha enormemente”.

“La manera en que plasmó las situaciones críticas de su vida, tanto el intento de tener un hijo (La cama volando), como su enfermedad y las desdichas de la relación con Diego Rivera, que a su vez era el amor de su vida. Entonces eso personalmente siempre me emocionó y, por eso, cuando en el año 95 me encontraba frente a dos obras históricas que eran El autorretrato con chango y loro de Frida, del 42, y Baile en Tehuantepec, del 28, de Diego, opté por Frida”.

Hilda Trujillo fue directora de La Casa Azul, la casa-museo donde Frida creció y pasó sus últimos días. En un diálogo con Infobae Cultura, un tiempo atrás, dijo: “La biografía y obra de Frida es el autorretrato.And there is a great influence of the father, who became self -portraits, there is one that becomes naked at the end of ‘19, since he was a very liberal man. Ella misma decía ‘me pinto a mi misma porque soy lo mejor que conozco’ y además pasaba mucho tiempo sola por su discapacidad, Si bien viajó, el tema de la soledad es algo muy recurrente en sus textos”.

In the sense of the autobiographical, the work of 1949 that, as announced, next year will be exhibited in the Malba, captures a special moment of the life of Frida. Fue pintada en la época en la que Rivera tuvo una relación amorosa con la estrella de cine María Félix, que llegó a la primera plana de los periódicos de la época.Frida's face, who looks at the viewer, is sad, with tears that fall, while her hair - an element of a lot of symbolism in the work of the painter - is entangled in her neck, and seems to hang her. La pieza fue realizada para la pareja Florence Arquin y Sam Williams, amigos de ella.

“It is a work that also self -portrait and there is also a portrait of Diego, I think there are two works like this.She has a very limited work body, 160 in total.And there are two of them in which Diego appears within herself, this is one, ”said Costantini.

Frida Kahlo, la amada: cómo se convirtió en la artista latinoamericana más cara de la historia

In life, Frida lived in the shadow of Diego Rivera, although it is fair to say that it was not by decision of the muralist, who always supported his career, but because of the patriarchal structure of the capitalist system, something that in recent years also enters crisisfrom the fourth wave of feminism and the recovery and valuation of many artists that the historiographic canon had hidden under the carpet in order to favor men.

Let us take as an example that headline holder News in 1933, when the couple reached the city where he would carry out the city industry murals.In an article you read: "wife of a teacher of murals happily ventures into works of art".

Hasta la compra de Diego y yo era justamente Rivera quien mantenía el récord para la región con Los rivales, una obra de 1932 subastada por Christie’s en USD 9,8 millones en mayo de 2018.Somehow, a kind of revenge for that infidelity and its place in history.

Today Kahlo finally escapes his direct association with Rivera, who due to his high profile and relations with power at the beginning of the last century became a figure that, like the Saturn of Roman mythology, devoured his children for fear of beingreplaced. Bajo sus murales y lienzos quedaron eclipsados otros gigantes de entonces como David Alfaro Siqueiros, José Clemente Orozco y Juan O’Gorman. Aunque, para ser justos, la figura de la nacida en Coyoacán en 1907, siempre estuvo en el centro de la escena con respecto a enormes pintoras de su tiempo como María Izquierdo y las nacionalizadas Leonora Carrington o Remedios Varo.At one point, Tandem Rivera-Kahlo or Kahlo-Rivera was a supernova that attracted the other stars of that galaxy not very, far distant towards darkness, at least as far as popular is concerned (and passed affecting thevalue of the works).

The resurgence of Latin American art

Creation two decades of the Malba, museum referring to the worldwide of art of the region, is not a minor fact in that regard.The institutionalization of a specialized museum generated the possibility of a new reading and positioning of the artists, who could thus be part of studies and analysis that began to challenge the pre -concepts or pernicious concepts that were previously carried out.

“If we focus on a vision of Latin American art since modernity, the list would be MoMA, MFAH (Houston Fine Arts Museum), Malba.Other museums have Latin American work (Pompidou), but not of such excellence in terms of modern art pieces. TATE y Reina Sofía coleccionan principalmente arte latinoamericano contemporáneo”, dijo la historiadora del arte e investigadora Andrea Giunta, miembro del Comité Científico Artístico del Malba, con respecto a la importancia del espacio en la escena global.

En ese sentido, hace dos décadas el MFAH nombró a la curadora Mari Carmen Ramírez con la tarea específica de desplegar un programa de arte latinoamericano y el MoMA también, por la iniciativa de Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, financió el puesto de una curaduría latinoamericana y reavivó el programa de adquisiciones, por nombrar algunos casos.

Costantini also said: “In the last 20 years Latin American art has grown greatly in visibility. Los curadores internacionales empezaron a viajar a Latinoamérica en búsqueda de una variedad de artistas como León Ferrari, por ejemplo, y en muchos otros casos se produjo una nueva lectura. Sin dudas el arte latinoamericano hoy tiene mucha más visibilidad que hace 20 años, pero Frida es un fenómeno que trasciende a la región”.

En 2020, una investigación realizada en 82 países por Ken Bromley Art Supplies, sitio web dedicado a la venta de artículos de arte, apuntó que Frida fue una de las artistas más buscadas en Google a nivel mundial, solo por detrás del pintor italiano, Leonardo da Vinci.

While it is true that feminism helped claim many women artists, some relegated to the background and others left aside directly, for Costantini that would not be the case of Frida: “Perhaps the feminist movement helped reinforce its figure, butFrida has its independent history for many years. Por ejemplo, cuando compré la pintura Autorretrato con loro, fue récord del arte latinoamericano durante 7 años y fue vencida por otra obra de Frida. Diego y yo se había rematado en el ‘90 por más de un millón y fue la primera en superar esa barrera.There are two films about her, documentaries;I think she in the case of her passes on the other side.It's like a universal artist ".

But, of course, not all Latin American art has the same market value.In that, the works of Mexican authors take the lead to that of the other countries. Así como el realismo mágico condicionó la mirada con respecto a la literatura tras el Boom, con escritores como García Márquez, Carlos Fuentes o Vargas Llosa por nombrar algunos, el muralismo y lo que sucedió en torno a estos creadores a principios del siglo pasado marcó una estética para el mercado internacional sobre qué era lo “latinoamericano” y qué era una derivación -secundaria- de las vanguardias europeas, siendo esta última la mirada dominante por parte de los grandes centros, tanto en Europa o EE.UU.And that today is in crisis.

In an interview with this media within the framework of the Modern Mexico sample. Vanguardia y revolución, que se llevó acabo en el Malba en 2018, el crítico estadounidense James Oles sostuvo: “En los 80s en la academia de Estados Unidos nadie sabía del arte argentino, ni hablaban de Berni, pero el arte mexicano sí, es mucho más familiar, mucho más presente.Not only for the proximity;The interest of many Americans in the art of Mexican has had to do with the political.Mexico is the only country that has a revolution at the beginning of the 20th century that really represented deep changes in the proletariat, agrarian reform and all that, although it has not reached all its goals ”.

“Part of what happens in Mexico in the twenties is the orientation of artists towards the town.They are not painting for the people, because no one in the town is going to buy easel works, nor are murals painted in popular places;Many are for bureaucrats, tourists and politicians.Thus, the power of the country is reoriented to other cultures.Many Mexican artists exposed and worked in the United States.It did not happen with another country, just one or another Cuban artist was known in the United States for the 40s. No podría pensar una exposición de, por ejemplo, Xul Solar, hasta no ser los ochenta. Diego Rivera ya estaba exponiendo su obra en Nueva York en 1915.It must be understood that since the twenties, when in Mexico City there was no commercial gallery dedicated exclusively to art, here in Buenos Aires there were works from Europe for the wealthy Argentines.However, in Mexico, many collectors and curators went directly to Diego Rivera's house to buy works ”.

For the critic, Kahlo built an image of herself that helped build the myth, beyond the canvas, from the use of popular clothing, who placed her in the imaginary as an avant -garde, although this, "was considered," it was not so: “There is a popular vision that Frida Kahlo dresses as indigenous and that she is a pioneer and a fighter in that, because she is the best -known Mexican woman of the twentieth century.But the clothes you are choosing has a complicated story. Incluso en el cuadro de Diego Rivera, Baile en Tehuantepec esas mujeres que tienen camisa de tela roja, que se llama huipil, tiene unos bordados amarillos que fueron hechos con máquinas de coser norteamericanas importadas a esa zona rural del sur de México desde finales del XIX.These women are not living in the primitive jungle.Maybe they don't have electricity, but they have sewing machines ”.

“Frida wants us to imagine that these women live in a tropical paradise, they are matriarchs, control men, dominate the market and finance.That is a nationalist construction of the time.The dress is a construction of years of exchange between indigenous customs, European imports, cloth sellers from the city of Juchitán that wanted to sell more fabric.Much of our identity, even today, is built on bases, not false, but mythological.Mythologies, not realities.It is very easy to think that Frida painted her own reality. Ella sí se ponía estos vestidos pero no fue la primera, de hecho es la última de todas las artistas de los años veinte en usar ropa indígena: Rosa Rolando, la novia de Miguel Covarrubias; Blanca Luz Brum, que andaba con David Alfaro Siqueiros; Tina Modotti.Many of these women are foreign or foreign medium, such as Frida.Obviously Frida Kahlo is Mexican, but her father is German.In Argentina this is irrelevant, but in Mexico one is not Mexican if your father is German.You are German or medium German.This prejudice is, it can be interpreted as an ethnic thing.Then she takes a cliché from many foreigners to dress, to exaggerate, and make it fashion.She has been very influential for the fashion industry, the ads, because she invented her own myth in a creative way. ”.

La obra de Frida Kahlo rompió records, ¿podrá ser superada?, ¿solo otra obra de ella puede hacerlo?.Beyond Costantini's relationship with the artist, so that this value was also reached.Their biographical cutting pictures no longer abound, in fact those found in Mexico are national heritage and cannot even leave the country, they remain there in private collections, but their appearances are increasingly rare.Meanwhile, Frida continues to grow in popularity, agigating the myth that she helped to build.


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