Thursday, 21 June 2018



The Frida Kahlo exhibition at the V&A made for uncomfortable viewing yesterday afternoon. Yes, it's spectacular and beautifully presented (and it wasn't even as crowded as I'd feared).
But at the centre of the exhibition is a gallery dedicated to Frida's endurance of pain, containing personal belongings that remained locked in her bathroom for 50 years after her death. It's fascinating to see ointments and cosmetics - her Revlon Frosted Pink Lightning nail polish, Shalimar scent, nail polish remover decanted into a Chanel No 5 bottle. There's excruciating corsets and braces, including a plaster corset painted with a foetus, made nearly 20 years after she suffered a life threatening miscarriage. There's her prosthetic leg in a jaunty red boot with bells and Chinese embroidery.
But is it all an intrusion too far, this rummaging in cupboards? Or was her whole life a work of art? It was amazing to see the display of her stunning costumes (I thought I spotted a neatly-darned cigarette burn on a skirt) and her jewellery and head-dresses: she dressed up even when she was at home and not expecting visitors.
Actually, what puzzles me most about myself is that simply by turning up you make yourself part of the hagiography and become a worshipper at the shrine. I suspect in another age I'd have been a Wife of Bath on a jaunt to Canterbury.

4 comments:

Veronica Cooke said...

I've been a fan of Frida Kahlo's work for many years and I found some of her pictures harrowing so I don't know if I would want to see this exhibition. I did like her sense of style and well done her for keeping it throughout her life!

Mary said...

Yes, that Tate exhibition a few years ago was very harrowing. I can't imagine the discipline it takes to keep such high standards when you're in pain.

Jacqui Fenner-Dixon said...


I'd love to visit this exhibition to see her costumes, jewellery and of course artwork, but the contents of her bathroom? This is how society is now, probably always has been - wanting to see the nitty gritty of someone's life. Like you, I'd find it too intrusive.

Mary said...

I can't get too prissy because I did enjoy the exhibition, Jacqui - hope you get there before it closes.