Henley Life October 2018 - page 8

With the recent opening of its newest
museum in Dundee, the V&A is growing
more popular by the minute. Closer to
home, in London, there is a month left of its
acclaimed exhibition
Frida Kahlo: Making
Her Self Up.
The V&A explores how Frida Kahlo, born
in1907 and one of the most recognised and
significant artists and women of the 20th
century, fashioned her identity.
This is the first exhibition outside of Mexico
to display her clothes and intimate
possessions, reuniting them with key self-
portraits and photographs to offer a fresh
perspective on her compelling life story.
This is an unparalleled insight into Kahlo’s life
revealing some objects that have never been
on show before.
Working in close collaboration with Museo
Frida Kahlo, the V&A displays more than 200
objects from the Kahlo’s home, the Blue
Kahlo’s personal items including outfits,
letters, jewellery, cosmetics, medicines and
medical corsets were discovered in 2004,
50 years after being sealed in the Blue House
by her husband Diego Rivera, the Mexican
muralist, following her death in 1954.
Exploring Kahlo’s highly choreographed
appearance and style, these include 22
distinctive colourful Tehuana garments; pre-
Columbian necklaces that Frida strung herself;
examples of intricately hand-painted corsets
and prosthetics which are displayed alongside
film and photography of the artist as a visual
narrative of her life.
The exhibition reimagines Kahlo’s home, the
Blue House, located in Coyoaca
n, on the
outskirts of Mexico City, where she was born,
lived and died. It explores her life as a child
with her family up to her marriage to Diego
Rivera including an
album of
architectural church
photographs by her
German father
Guillermo Kahlo,
early paintings and
photographs of
Kahlo and Rivera
together, and with
their influential circle
of friends including
communist leader
Leon Trotsky.
Kahlo empowered
herself through her
art and dress after
suffering a
devastating near-
fatal bus crash at the age of 18, which
rendered her bed-bound and immobilised
for protracted periods of time.
Self-portraiture became the primary focus
of her art at this point and she began to
paint using a mirror inset into the canopy of
her four-poster bed.
Much more was understood about Kahlo’s
accident after the discovery of the objects in
the Blue House. The exhibition will illuminate
this story through items such as her
medicines and orthopaedic aids.
Kahlo possessed many supportive bodices
and spine back braces and on display will be
some of the corsets that she painted with
religious and communist symbolism and
tragic imagery relating to her miscarriages.
In this exhibition the V&A allows the visitor
to explore Kahlo’s Mexico and her sense of
cultural pride following the Mexican
Revolution (1910-20).
An enthusiastic desire to embrace a
national identity led to her interest in the art
and traditions of indigenous people of the
country. Kahlo used her striking appearance
as a political statement, crafting her identity
to reflect her own
mestizo (mixed-race)
identity and allegiance
to Mexican identity.
Also on display are
garments from Kahlo’s
collection: rebozos, a
traditional Mexican
shawl, huipiles, an
embroidered square-
cut top, enaguas and
holanes, long skirts
with flounces, and
jewellery ranging from
pre-Columbian jade
beads to modern
A highlight is the
resplandor, a lace
headdress worn by the
women of the
matriarchal society
from the Isthmus of
Tehuantepec region in Southern Mexico,
paired with a self-portrait of Kahlo wearing it.
Claire Wilcox, Senior Curator of Fashion at
the V&A and exhibition co-curator, said: “A
countercultural and feminist symbol, this
show offers a powerful insight into how Frida
Kahlo constructed her own identity. It’s a rare
opportunity for visitors, offering unique
access to an archive that has never left
Mexico before.”
Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up runs until
November 4 . Admission £15 (concessions
available). V&A Members go free. Advance
booking is advised – this can be done in
person at the V&A; online at
vam.ac.uk/FridaKahlo; or by calling 020 7942
2000 (booking fee applies).
Making up
Frida Kahlo
Top left: Frida Kahlo with Olmec Figurine 1939, Photograph
Nickolas Muray. Above: Guatemalan cotton coat worn with
Mazatec hippie and floor length skirt.
Below: A self-portrait on the border between Mexico and the
United States of America, Frida Kahlo 1932
| OCTOBER 2018
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