Frida Kahlo: Making Herself Up at the V&A

Be transported this summer from London to Mexico at the V&A’s Frida Kahlo: Making Herself Up. Paintings and photographs are shown alongside some of her most personal possessions – her favourite red lipstick, Everything’s Rosy by Revlon, her medicines and an achingly sad medical report that documents the traumatic details of her failed pregnancies, and an array of her brightly coloured outfits and jewellery. This exhibition presents a fascinating, fresh take on Frida Kahlo, that is both vibrant and haunting; an intimate look into her private world in the exotic blue-hued haven of the Casa Azul in Mexico City.

After her death in 1954, her husband, the artist Diego Rivera, filled her bathroom with her letters, photos, cosmetics and personal treasures, stating that it could not be unlocked until after his death. Leaving Mexico for the first time, these artefacts are lovingly displayed here, revealing a deeply personal and never before seen side of Kahlo.

For Kahlo, who significantly expanded the bounds of self-portraiture in the 20th Century, her carefully crafted outward appearance was just as much a construction of self as her paintings. She used her clothing, jewellery and makeup to make political statements and shows of her own national identity, as well as to mask her increasingly fragile health. Her dresses were often made more capacious so that they could cover the complex contraptions of back braces and plaster corsets that she needed throughout much of her adult life due to the near-fatal bus crash that she suffered aged 18.

While her art is renowned for its deeply personal subject matter, it is these intimate objects – including the flaming red prosthetic leg that Kahlo decorated herself – and the numerous photos that show the artist living and working despite her illnesses, that reveal a truly human dimension of this beloved artist, activist and feminist icon. Rarely do we get to see an artist in this light; haunting, compelling and deeply moving, it is an opportunity not to be missed.

Guatemalan cotton coat worn with Mazatec huipil and plain floor-length skirt. Museo Frida Kahlo. © Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Archives, Banco de México, Fiduciary of the Trust of the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Museums

By Honor Hardwick for A Little Bird

Frida Kahlo: Making Herself Up
16 June - 4 Nov 2018
V&A Cromwell Rd Knightsbridge, SW7 2RL
— A Little Bird
14th June 2018