An unfinished Frida Kahlo painting whose whereabouts had remained a mystery for years has reappeared and is scheduled to be auctioned off next week in New York City.
Niña Con Collar (Girl with Necklace) was painted by Kahlo in 1929, when the famous Mexican artist was just 22. It hadn't been seen by the public for decades, but recently resurfaced in California, where it had been tucked away in someone's house since the 1950s.
Next week the painting will be auctioned at Sotheby's for an estimated $1.5- 2 million. Not bad for one of Frida's earliest works.
The auction house said the painting is expected to fetch such an eyebrow-raising price because Kahlo's works have become extremely rare. For several decades the Mexican government has been protecting her paintings as national cultural patrimony. Export of her paintings is forbidden.
But Niña con Collar is a different matter. The painting was reportedly given to a woman who worked with Kahlo in the 1950s. It was a gift from Kahlo's husband, the iconic Mexican artist Diego Rivera. The woman, now in her 90s, took the painting with her to California, where it hung unnoticed in her private collection for 60 years.
Axel Stein, Sotheby's director for Latin American art, told Reuters the painting is in remarkably good shape. “It was in a dark part of the house so the colors are (still) vibrant," he said.
Kahlo's "Two Nudes in the Forest" broke a record for Latin American artists last year, when the painting sold for $8 million at another auction.
Art critics say the unfinished work of Niña Con Collar shows early traces of Kahlo's world-renowned style. The subject in the painting faces the audience with Kahlo's arched eyebrows, though it's not believed to be a self-portrait.
Sotheby's auction house reports that Kahlo probably kept the painting until her death, in 1954, because she had an emotional attachment to it.
“The painting would hold a particular meaning to her, as it became a point of departure on which she built various self-portraits over time,” Sotheby's said in a release. “It is not unusual for an artist to keep a particular work, which she did…because it proved to be a spring well of ideas for works to come. “
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.