A Frida Kahlo 1949 self-portrait Diego y yo, or Diego and I, broke records yesterday. The painting is now officially classified as the most expensive work by a Latin American artist ever sold at auction.
At the end of the day, the painting went under the hammer for $34.9 million.
This was the last self-portrait created by the famed Mexican artist. It depicts a bust of Kahlo with tears in her eyes and the image of her husband, artist Diego Rivera, on her forehead. The painting is meant to depict the tumultuous relationship between the two, who were together for more than 20 years.
The last time the painting went up for sale was in 1990. While the seller was anonymous, the buyer was reportedly the founder of a museum in Argentina. During Sotheby’s auction on 16 November 2021, the total price paid for the masterpiece hit a new record, beating their previous record by more than $9.8 million.
Frida Kahlo is perhaps one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. During a time in history when women were struggling to find their voice, Frida was paving the way for generations to come. Even through incredible health problems, Frida was able to create some of the most powerful self-portraits the world has ever seen.
Born in Coyoacan Mexico, in 1907 in a tiny blue house in the town of La Casa Azul. At the age of 6 things took a turn for the worse when she suddenly contracted Polio – a virus that causes paralysis. But this didn’t stop her from standing out.
Frida Kahlo attended the renowned National Preparatory School in Mexico City in the year of 1922. There are only thirty-five female students enrolled in that school and she soon became famous for her outspokenness and bravery.
It was here she first met the famous Mexican muralist Diego Rivera who was 20 years older than her.
Kahlo was often seen in New York with her signature, bright, gold, signature clothing that celebrated her rich culture.
In 1962, on a September afternoon when she travelled with Gomez Arias on a bus the tragic accident happened. The bus collided with a streetcar and Kahlo was seriously injured.
A steel handrail impaled her through the hip. Her spine and pelvis were fractured and the accident left her in a great deal of pain, both physically and psychologically.
With three months trapped in an entire body cast, all she could do was use her hands to the best of her ability and paint. Years later in 1928, the artist Rivera discovers Kahlo and her art pieces. Just one year later the couple got married. However, their marriage evolved and grew along a rocky slope, with both sides having multiple affairs.
This is seen in the last crying tears shed by Frida Kahlo in Rivera’s Diego and I.
The work Diego y yo, was Riveras last ever portrait piece from the 1940s. It was a small gem-like portrait that depicts Kahlo and her husband, Rivera superimposed on her forehead – literally on her mind.
Her work has been described as revelations or pathways into the beauties psyche as she often used herself as his main subject matter.
Whenever you look at a picture of Frida Kahlo, you enter through her world. The intense vulnerability that echoes through her self-portraiture is what makes her pieces so captivating.
These are moments that have been lived, have survived and have been recreated time and time again.
It was here that she captured her constant sorrow after finding out the news that her husband was having an affair with Maria Felix, a Mexican film actress and singer – the news completely destroys her. You can see this in her fixated gaze, cutting through us like a knife.
Another tell-tale sign was how he depicted her untamed hair, slowly engulfing and suffocating her. Of course, there were many hidden other elements that she felt immense pressure but these things we will never know as her life ended at the young age of 47.
She was at the peak of her artistic maturity when she executed this work in 1949. The painting invites everyone to open their eyes and examine her life laid bare. It is an extremely honest autobiographical portrait.
Its been decades since a self-portrait of this calibre has been on the public market. The painting opens your eyes to the fact that Khalo, who is one of the trophies of the 20th-century masters has once again changed the world – and her price point reflects it.
The self-portrait that was set by Kahlo’s husband, found its new home on the Tuesday evening sale, by a third party who was already lined up to purchase Kahlo’s work at its minimum estimated value.
Frida Kahlo is becoming one of the most popular artists in the world because she is a symbol. A symbol of Mexico, a symbol for women and an icon for her uncompromising and brilliantly coloured 20th-century self-portraits.