I’m going to come clean and admit that the first time I heard of world famous Frida Kahlo was when I went to a briefing at Grosvenor’s swanky Mayfair offices as they talked through plans for the year. I’m not sure HOW exactly I managed to avoid it – is this the Love Island equivalent in the art world perhaps? But miss it I did.
Luckily for me though, Grosvenor are sponsoring the exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum and therefore over the last few months I’ve been able to get to know Frida Kahlo as working with DONNA IDA (a Belgravia resident) we took part in Belgravia in Bloom and created a special T-shirt with artist Alison Carmichael which appeared in YOU magazine and the promotional images for the event (see below).
The exhibition itself, titled Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up is running now until the Day Of The Dead (2nd November 2018) in the heart of Kensington at our world famous Victoria & Albert Museum – or the V&A.
If you’re visiting London, you can make a day of your visit by seeing the rest of the museum free of charge and also the nearby Natural History Museum or the iconic Harrods department store plus I urge you to visit the Hummingbird Bakery (personal favourite) near South Kensington tube station.
The exhibition is relatively small but perfectly formed and occupies the same space as this amazing Alexandra McQueen exhibition. We whizzed round it in about an hour at a private viewing, but it might take a couple of hours with more people in the space.
After she died in 1954, Frida Kahlo’s items from her famous Blue House were locked up in a room by her artist husband, Diego Rivera, who decreed they would not be opened for 50 years. This exhibition reveals Frida the person, there’s jewellery, clothes, medicines and makeup from the room which was finally revealed in 2004.
Much of Frida’s life was influenced by a near fatal crash she was involved in at the tender age of 18, forcing her to spend long periods in bed, which in turn meant she moved to art as a refuge. The beauty of Frida is there to see, with the striking makeup, the beautiful gowns and the love of flowers and vibrant colours but it is only knowing what she is masking inside which makes it more astonishing.
The medical equipment and spine supports are heavy duty and in The Broken Column painting, a stunning piece by the way, she depicts herself sitting naked except for a steel corset against a desolate backdrop with a column running through where her spine would be and nails piercing her skin. At the time her diary entry read; ‘I am disintegration’ yet the look on her face is still one of determination.
Towards the end of her life (she died at just 47) she suffered further complications meaning the her right leg was amputated. You can see her wonderfully decorated in this exhibition as Claire Wilcox, senior curator of fashion at the V&A, told the Guardian. “It was an object of defiance. Being Frida, it’s quite – if it’s possible – a joyful object. She has clad it in a bright red leather boot and had it embroidered and tied bells on to it. It is so powerful and it is very exciting that these objects were saved and they are coming to the V&A.” Claire Wilcox
You might go into this exhibition for fashion and flowers but what you come out with is an extraordinary respect for the power of human resilience and how lucky we are that Frida Kahlo found the strength to leave the world with this wonderful legacy.
Book tickets to The V&A Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up until 4th November 2018 – get tickets here
Thank you to Grosvenor for inviting us to the private viewing.