Frida Kahlo didn’t necessarily earn the credit she deserved while she was alive — often overshadowed by her famous muralist husband Diego Rivera — but she has since become known as one of the most significant artists of the twentieth century and is considered an icon of the feminist movement.
Known for her self-portraits, depictions of suffering and ill-health and paintings inspired by the culture and artifacts of her native Mexico, Kahlo has, in recent years, been the subject of three fictional novels, two operas and a feature film starring Salma Hayek.
Her home, La Casa Azul in Coyoacán, Mexico City, is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations with 25,000 visitors touring the property monthly.
Now, a 1949 self-portrait painted by the famed artists is going up for auction at Sotheby’s and is expected to reach more than $30 million. If it achieves that price it will break the Latin American artist auction record — which, incidentally, is currently held by a painting of Rivera’s.
Kahlo’s self-portrait, titled ‘Diego y yo’ (Diego and I), shows Rivera, who was frequently unfaithful, in the centre of her forehead, depicting the turbulent nature of their marriage which often inspired Kahlo’s work.
The pair first met in 1922 but did not begin their ill-fated romance until 1928 and married in 1929. The couple had a rocky relationship with both of them being unfaithful, before divorcing in 1939 and then remarrying in 1940.
In her diary, Kahlo once wrote, “I suffered two great accidents in my life, one in which a streetcar knocked me down … the other accident is Diego.”
Kahlo was referring to the horrific accident she was involved in when she was 18 in which the bus she was travelling on collided with an electric streetcar. Several passengers were killed in the accident while Kahlo was impaled with an iron handrail that went through her pelvis.
Her spinal column and pelvis were each broken in three places and she also broke her collarbone and two ribs. Her right leg, which had already been deformed by polio, was shattered and fractured in 11 places, and her right foot was dislocated and crushed. Her right leg was amputated at the knee in 1953.
According to Sotheby’s, the sale of ‘Diego y yo’ “will again be a watershed moment for Kahlo and Latin American artists, as it was when the painting last sold at Sotheby’s in 1990″ — when it sold for USD $1.4m. The sale made Kahlo the first Latin American artist to sell for more than USD $1m at auction at the time.
The current Kahlo record is USD $8m which was the price fetched for ‘Two Nudes in a Forest’ in 2016.