Frida Kahlo was a com­mu­nist. But she sells

The Guardian Weekly - - Comment & Debate - More at the­guardian.com/opin­ion Suzanne Moore

I spent a while wait­ing in the enor­mous gift shop at the V&A as my daugh­ter was still look­ing at the ex­hi­bi­tion Frida Kahlo: Mak­ing Her Self Up. She was en­tranced. Kahlo does that. Her bro­ken body, her relics – the lip­stick, the per­fume, the jew­ellery. It’s a shrine. Who wouldn’t bow down be­fore her pain, her pas­sion, her power? wer? The com­plex­ity, the colour, the e huge in­tel­li­gence.

But not some­how as com­pelm­pelling to me as the size of the e gift shop. I don’t want to dress s up as Frida Kahlo, but a lot of mid­dlei­d­dleaged women do. “The fan- dom”, as my teenager refers ers to them. There was so much ch Mex­i­can stuff on sale, which ich I love, and so many books. .

There is some great stuff: ff: repli­cas of her fab­u­lous su­nun­glasses. For this, af­ter all, is largely an ex­hi­bi­tion of her stuff, and that stuff moves us; the plas­ter casts she wore, with the baby she would never have drawn on. The pros­thetic leg. And then she is there on film – in black and white with Trot­sky, in colour with her hus­band Diego Rivera. What’s not to love? Let’s not worry too much about cul­tural ap­pro­pri­a­tion as Kahlo Ka her­self ap­pro­pri­ated the clot clothes of the peas­ant class. Skip o over her bi­sex­u­al­ity and her politic pol­i­tics, and put some flow­ers in your h hair.

Oh F Frida, did you paint a ham­mer and an sickle on your plas­ter bod body cast for noth­ing? In your fina fi­nal days you painted yoursel self with Stalin. You were a com­mu­nist c and proud; a T-s T-shirt, with your im­age, bear­ing the slo­gan “I am lit­er­ally a S Stal­in­ist” – would that sell, I w won­der?

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