For one of the best cultural experiences this summer, I can’t recommend Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up highly enough. I went to the press preview a couple of weeks ago and it’s probably the busiest press preview I’ve ever been to. In fact, they had to do two sessions to fit everyone in.
If you don’t know the back story, 1920s Mexican artist Frida Kahlo was badly injured as an 18 year old in a gory bus crash. Bedbound, she resorted to painting self portraits via a mirror contraption set into her bed. Enduring numerous operations, she incorporated her pain and disfigured body into her art.
Central to this particular exhibition is the way in which Kahlo constructed her identity and for this we’re given access to the contents of the ‘Blue House’ where she lived with her husband, the celebrated muralist Diego Riviera. Of special interest are her clothes and beauty items, the tools with which she created the striking persona that we all now recognise. These personal items were sealed in a bathroom in the Blue House for fifty years after her death and only uncovered in 2004.
The exhibition is beautifully designed, taking us through her early life and the Mexican cultural landscape through to her creative blooming and then to a remarkable display of her Mexican fashion outfits. While the extensive collection of shawls, skirts and statement jewellery on display are fantastic, I loved the beauty cosmetic vitrines. There’s something especially intimate about seeing someone’s used lipsticks and perfume bottles with the branding worn off. You somehow feel a much closer connection to them.
Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up, sponsored by Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, is at V&A from 16 June – 18 November 2018.
WORDS: Disneyrollergirl/Navaz Batliwalla
MAIN IMAGE: Frida Kahlo, c. 1926. Museo Frida Kahlo. © Diego Riviera and Frida Kahlo Archives, Banco de México, Fiduciary of the Trust of the Diego Riviera and Frida Kahlo Museums.
OTHER IMAGES: Disneyrollergirl/Navaz Batliwalla
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