One of my all-time favorite painters, Frida Kahlo, is in the news as the Princeton Architectural Press recently released a new glossy art book, Finding Frida Kahlo. The book is packed with photos and descriptions of the 1,200 Kahlo objects found in 2004 by art and antiques dealer Carlos Noyola in what’s been called a “Kahlo trove.” The objects range from stuffed hummingbirds and huipiles (the traditional loose-fitting blouses Kahlo fancied), to notebooks full of her private thoughts and drawings.
Kahlo enthusiasts should visit her house in the Coyoacán suburb of bustling Mexico City. Kahlo’s father built the house in 1904 and she was born there in 1907. She spent much of her adult and turbulent married life there as well as her final days.
The collection of the Museo Frida Kahlo and La Casa Azul (The Blue House) includes some of her most iconic paintings including Viva la Vida (Live the Life), Mis Abuelos, Mis Padres, y Yo (My Grandparents, My Parents, and I), and Frida y la Cesárea (Frida and the Cesarean). The museum also displays her bed, the easel given to her by Nelson Rockefeller, the mirrors she used to inspect herself for her many self-portraits, as well as the corsets she wore due to the devastating bus/trolley accident she survived at age 18.
Her sense of humor, sarcasm, and hospitality are tangible at the museum as are her politics and activism. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday and costs 55 pesos (about $4).
Next door, visitors can also explore the Museo Diego Rivera Anahuacalli that features over 50,000 pre-Hispanic pieces Rivera collected during his lifetime in an attempt to preserve for the Mexican people an oft-ignored (and maligned) part of their history. Though the museum, built of the same volcanic stone on which it sits, didn’t open until after his death, Rivera was integral in its design and exchanged ideas on its design and construction with American architectural luminary Frank Lloyd Wright.
I contacted Ximena Gómez of the Frida Kahlo Museum to learn a bit more about it and the Museo Diego Rivera as well as to find out which museums in the U.S. feature extensive Kahlo collections for those of us not lucky enough to explore the Blue House and the Rivera Museum firsthand.
How close is the Museo Diego Rivera to La Casa Azul?
Both the museums are in the area known as Delegación Coyoacán. By car, it takes around 15 minutes to travel between the two locations. Visitors can pay one fee to visit both museums.
I see the Museo Diego Rivera contains over 50,000 pre-Hispanic pieces collected by Rivera in his lifetime. The museum must be huge. How are all of these pieces exhibited?
Not all the pieces are exhibited. Indeed the museum is very big and we do exhibit many pieces, but unfortunately some of them must be kept in a safe.
What are some highlights from this expansive collection?
The highlights are the building by itself, the decorated ceilings, and the pieces from the pre-Hispanic culture from western Mexico.
Are some of Rivera’s works exhibited at the Museo Diego Rivera?
We do have paintings, drawings, and stencils of some of Rivera’s murals though not all of them are exhibited all the time.
If you can’t get to Mexico City, there are plenty of other places to check out Kahlo’s work, including The National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC; The Albright-Knox Art Gallery, in Buffalo, NY; the Phoenix Art Museum; the Museum of Modern Art in New York City; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Finally, Krista Rossow, Traveler associate photo editor, who’s also a Kahlo fan and who’s been to Mexico City, tipped me off to the Museo Dolores Olmedo south of Mexico City in Xochimilo. She says it’s a great place to see 25 Kahlo originals (Olmedo
- Nat Geo Expeditions
purportedly paid a mere $1,600 for all of them!) as well as 137 of Rivera’s works housed in former in the 16th-century estate of Rivera model and friend Dolores (Lola)
For more on Mexico City, check out our coverage of the bustling city in our Places of a Lifetime series here.
Photos courtesy of the Museo Frida Kahlo