A new exhibition devoted to the influential Mexican painters Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris offers visitors a unique insight into the work and romance of the legendary art couple.
Parisians have a long-awaited rendezvous with Mexico’s arguably most influential painters, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, as the Orangerie Museum unveils this week an exhibition devoted to the life and careers of the legendary artists and lovers.
The artists’ names – especially Frida’s – smack with familiarity, but their work remains largely unseen or relatively unknown in France.
“Kahlo has claimed the status of a feminist icon, through her own biography and a movie, but there are almost no paintings of her in the whole of Europe's museums,” curator and museum director Marie-Paule Vial told FRANCE 24. No exhibition dedicated to Kahlo's work has been presented in France in over 15 years.
Rivera is considered a giant in his native Mexico and throughout Latin America. But fame has eluded him outside the Spanish-speaking world, even while his huge mural paintings have gone a long way toward shaping the image and stereotypes of Mexico that are so prevalent around the planet.
The new show in the Orangerie, known mostly for its collection of French impressionist Claude Monet’s water lilies, invites visitors to rediscover the artist couple through some of their more important works, but also a unique collection of photos and videos of their passionate –and often tormented – romance.
The show is organised around four rooms, the first focusing solely on Rivera and his often overlooked formative years in Europe. Here it is easy to mistake the Mexican’s paint brush for those of Pablo Picasso, Paul Cézanne or Georges Braque.
A second space seeks to document and recreate life at La Casa Azul, the couple’s home in Mexico City’s Coyoacán neighbourhood. During the pair’s lifetime the house was a magnet for international artists, intellectuals, and left-wing political activists – as is made evident by portraits by photographer Nickolas Muray and sketches by French artist Dora Maar that also bring the expo to life.
A final rectangular hall hosts a wide, but far from exhaustive, collection from both Rivera and Kahlo. But the heart of the Paris exhibit is undoubtedly a smaller chamber within this space, which is consecrated entirely to Frida’s most intimate self-portraits of suffering, including the famous Broken Column.
The museum’s intimate close-up on Kahlo highlights a fact that would shock most Mexicans: Frida has eclipsed Diego in interest and importance among Europeans – even if he was the established master who took her in; even if his prolific career stands in contrast to her fairly limited production.
“It’s a personal myth she knowingly helped orchestrate. We can see it in the way she poses and stages herself,” Orangerie’s Vial said in reference to the “Fridamania” that continues to grip Europe. “It’s kind of like [Frida's] sweet revenge.”
Frida Kahlo / Diego Rivera – Art in Fusion, at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris from October 9 – January 13, 2014. Metro Concorde.
© © Archivo Museo Dolores Olmeda cBanco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust / ADAGP, Paris | Naturaleza Muerta Cubista (con garrafa), 1916
The exhibition "Frida Kahlo / Diego Rivera: Art in Fusion" explores some of the lesser known aspects of the couple's careers, like Rivera's often overlooked formative years in Europe.
© Private collection ©ADAGP, Paris | Autorretrato con Traje de Terciopelo, 1926
Frida Kahlo only begins to devote herself to painting after a bus accident that left her temporarily bed-ridden. This is the first in a long list of self-portraits, a subject that would become the artist’s hallmark.
© Private collection ©ADAGP, Paris | Vendedora de Alcatraces, 1943
Rivera is considered a giant in his native Mexico and his paintings of indigenous Mexicans influenced an entire generation of artists across Latin America.
© Reproduction of mural from Ministry of Education in Mexico City | The Arsenal, Frida Kahlo distributing arms
The Musée de l'Orangerie's show includes reproductions of Rivera's monumental frescoes that decorate many of Mexico City's public buildings.
© © Archivo Museo Dolores Olmeda ©Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust / ADAGP, Paris | Retrato de Alicia Galant, 1927
© © Archivo Museo Dolores Olmeda ©Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust / ADAGP, Paris | Retrato de Luther Burbank, 1931
Kahlo's work evolved over the years, slowly abandoning real forms and progressing toward Surrealism.
© © Archivo Museo Dolores Olmeda ©Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust / ADAGP, Paris | La Columna Rota, 1944
While the exhibition is a unique opportunity to see the artist couple’s works side by side, it is Kahlo who appears to headline the show, a reflection of her immense popularity among Europeans.
Date created : 2013-10-09