June 13, 2007 / 2:58 PM / 11 years ago

Mexico City hosts largest ever Frida Kahlo exhibit

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The Mexican capital will host the largest ever exhibition of Frida Kahlo’s works this week to mark 100 years since the birth of the artist, who has become a feminist icon in the past decade as her fame blooms.

A cameraman films Frida Kahlo's painting "Las dos Fridas, 1939" (The two Fridas, 1939) which will be exhibited along with her other works at Mexico City's Bellas Artes museum, June 12, 2007. REUTERS/Daniel Aguilar

More than 300,000 people are expected to attend the two-month show starting on Wednesday at the Museo de Bellas Artes museum.

“I don’t think anyone, after seeing this, will have any questions about Frida’s artistic journey,” said Teresa Franco, head of the institute that runs the museum.

About 350 pieces will go on display, including some on loan from collections in the United States, as well as 50 of Kahlo’s personal letters and 100 photographs.

Kahlo began painting as a teenager while convalescing from a horrific tram crash in 1925 in which she broke her back in three places and fractured other bones.

The accident and a legacy of childhood polio left her in constant physical pain and unable to have children. That suffering is often depicted in her work, which dwells on themes of pain and female disfigurement.

Twice married to Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, who was nearly 20 years her senior, Kahlo also reportedly had an affair with revolutionary Leon Trotsky after he fled the Soviet Union. Kahlo died in July 1954 after suffering a bout of pneumonia. Rivera died in 1957.

Her feminism, lifestyle and Communist political beliefs have become inseparable from her art.

“Frida has to be read on one hand as an artist and on the other as a figure who put strong emphasis on an archetypal feminine problem,” Franco said.

Some critics warn that Kahlo’s colorful lifestyle and cult status are obscuring her work’s artistic value.

“I think the ongoing Fridamania would be something she herself would critique, as she critiqued the social mores of the early 20th century, such as the expectation that she would want to have a child,” said Margaret Lindauer of Virginia Commonwealth University, author of a book on Kahlo’s art and popularity.

Many museum visitors look forward to the exhibition, which is scheduled to run until August.

“She forms an important part of Mexican history,” said Sylvia Serrand, a doctor.

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