Frida’s Photographs

David Bowie was a big fan. Mex­i­can House) in Mex­ico City, now the Casa graphs of the singer at Casa Azul.


David Bowie was a big fan. Mex­i­can artist Frida Kahlo was an ex­tra­or­di­nary per­son who lived an ex­tra­or­di­nary, ex­otic life. Decades be­fore Bowie, the artist with the fa­mous mono­brow, cre­ated a work of art from her life.

Mix­ing with celebri­ties and the wider art com­mu­nity, she painted; de­signed and made cloth­ing – a tra­di­tion­ally styled dress of hers be­came an ob­ject of fash­ion homage; and took and col­lected lovers – and photographs.

The only South­ern Hemi­sphere ex­hi­bi­tion of her per­sonal pho­to­graph col­lec­tion opened in Te Manawa on Satur­day – the first stop on an in­au­gu­ral world tour.

Long after Kahlo died in 1954 aged 47, the col­lec­tion of 6500 photographs was dis­cov­ered locked in a bath­room at her for­mer home, La Casa Azul (the Blue Azul, Frida Kahlo Mu­seum.

241 of the images, taken by pho­tog­ra­phers such as Man Ray, Niko­las Murray, Gisele Fre­und, Martin Munkacsi, Tina Modotti, her fa­ther Guillermo Kahlo, and Kahlo her­self of­fer a unique in­sight into the artist’s life.

Casa Azul di­rec­tor Hilda Tru­jillo Soto, at­tended the open­ing and con­ducted a tour of the ex­hi­bi­tion, which also in­cludes video footage.

‘‘No one knew about these parts of Frida un­til the archives were found. We found about 6500 photographs, all col­lected by Frida. They are very im­por­tant in show­ing what was be­hind her work.’’

Bowie, Hilda says turned up at the mu­seum around 2008.

‘‘Yes, David Bowie was among her many ad­mir­ers.’’

On her cell­phone, Hilda has photo- graphs of the singer at Casa Azul.

Of mixed Ger­man, Span­ish, Cre­ole and in­dige­nous Mex­i­can de­scent, Kahlo con­sid­ered her­self an out­cast, sta­tus fur­thered by her left-wing pol­i­tics and in­de­pen­dent at­ti­tude. Se­verely in­jured and par­tially crip­pled in a bus ac­ci­dent when she was 18, her long painful re­cu­per­a­tion fur­ther em­pha­sised this sense of iso­la­tion, and she iden­ti­fied with oth­ers con­sid­ered out­casts.

Kahlo is also revered as a fem­i­nist for de­fy­ing so­cial con­ven­tion, and ad­dress­ing life on her own terms.

Te Manawa’s CEO Andy Lowe says hav­ing the ex­hi­bi­tion here was ‘‘hugely ex­cit­ing; it’s amaz­ing’’.

Frida Kahlo: Her Pho­tos runs at Te Manawa un­til July 24. Next stop, Sao Paulo, Brazil.


Frida Kahlo, pho­tographed in 1944 by Lola Al­varez. Anna Bai­ley uses pup­petry and a large pop-up pic­ture book to il­lus­trate de­tails from the life of Frida Kahlo dur­ing the open­ing of the ex­hi­bi­tion Frida Kahlo: Her Pho­tos at Te Manawa on Satur­day.

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