face has been printed onto everything from tequila bottles to throw pillows, but how did she groom those famous eyebrows? What brand of lipstick did she use? Where did her clothes and jewelry come from?
Revered for her beguiling look as much as her searing paintings, Kahlo was her own constant muse: She created 55 self-portraits in her lifetime
, and was the subject she returned to most. A new exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum
(V&A), “Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up,” explores the objects that made up Kahlo’s inimitable look—from the colorful traditional Mexican garments she wore to her customized prosthetic legs—and expressed her personhood. It’s a three-dimensional self-portrait of the artist that celebrates Kahlo’s multifaceted life and style through personal possessions that are being shown for the first time outside of Mexico, in addition to several of her beloved paintings.
Over 200 objects have arrived from the Casa Azul, Kahlo’s former residence and the home where she was born, raised, and eventually died, which is now a museum dedicated to her life and work. The belongings retell Kahlo’s well-known life story, but with new insights: There’s an album of photographs of churches taken by her Hungarian-German father, Guillermo, and the medical braces and bodices embellished with symbols that she wore following the horrific accident that would haunt her for the rest of her life. Kahlo’s own telling of her physical suffering after the accident and her subsequent miscarriages is well-documented in the diaries she left behind, as well as a biography, but these bodices illustrate the ways that she found solace and healing through art, in a very direct way.
The objects also collectively serve as a rumination on the power of creativity. The way Kahlo dressed was not only representative of her artistic panache, but a bold means of expressing herself as a woman, as a Mexican, and as a disabled person.
As the show opens to the public, we take a look at some of Kahlo’s most coveted possessions and the stories behind them with the exhibition’s co-curator, Claire Wilcox.