In recent years Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) has become an unofficial cultural icon who is widely beloved by art enthusiasts, critics, feminists and hipsters alike.
Now, 62 years after her death, Khalo has reclaimed the title as the most expensive Latin American artist whose art sold at an auction, after one of her paintings sold to an undisclosed buyer at a Christie’s Auction House for a staggering $8 million. The artist set a new record even though Christie’s estimated the painting could go for as much as $12 million.
The 1939 oil painting titled “Dos Desnudos en el Bosque (La Tierra Misma),” or “Two Nudes in the Forest (Earth Itself),” depicts a white and a dark-skinned women lying in one of the artist’s signature surreal landscapes.
“Who are these nude women? They are, I believe, two aspects of Frida Kahlo and, at the same time, they are two different women—Frida being comforted by a woman she loved,” Abby McEwen, a historian and Latin American art expert, wrote for Christie's. “Kahlo recognized the duality of her personality. Both her husband, the muralist Diego Rivera and her close friends noted that there were many Fridas.”
According to Christie’s, Khalo gave the painting as a gift to legendary Mexican actress Dolores del Rio, who was a Hollywood starlet in the 1920s and 30s.
“If the women in Two Nudes in a Forest are seen as two different women, the dark one probably refers to Dolores del Río with whom Kahlo is known to have had an intimate friendship. Like The Two Fridas, the two female nudes may allude to Kahlo’s bisexuality,” McEwen noted.
Khalo was the first Latin American artist to surpass the one-million dollar threshold at an auction with her work "Diego y Yo." In 2006 she broke records with a painting titled “Roots” that was sold for $5.6 million at the Sotheby’s Auction House. She then lost her title as LatAm’s most expensive in 2008 to Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991), whose work “Troubadour” sold for $7.2 million.
Kahlo's life, much like her paintings, was a rollercoaster of passion and tragedy. She suffered many health problems and a brutal traffic accident that left her in constant pain from a broken spinal column. She was married to famous Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, but both reportedly had multiple love affairs. Some of Kahlo's alleged extramarital affairs included communist revolutionary Leon Trotsky and American Jazz dancer Josephine Baker.
The artist is mostly known for her self-portraits, which highlight her big eyes, famously thick eyebrows and unapologetic mustache. Her paintings often include surreal elements that invoke nature and suffering.