Frida Kahlo unseats Rivera as the most sought-after Latin American artist

One of the last portraits of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo broke the record for a Latin American artist at auction on Tuesday. The self-portrait Diego and yo, from 1949, was the star of the auction that the Sotheby’s house held this Tuesday in New York, within the framework of the autumn season of the art market.

With a starting price of $30 million, the painting, which shows the author head-on, with the figure of Diego Rivera inserted in his forehead as a haunting presence, was auctioned for $34.9 million, a price that displaces her husband from the podium as the most sought-after Latin American artist (10 million dollars in 2018 for his painting The Rivals ) and which is also a record for the work of a woman, although without exceeding the figure of a painting by Georgia O’Keefe which reached $44 million in 2014, also at Sotheby’s.

Before Tuesday evening, under the title Evening Sale, Kahlo’s self-portrait had already broken another record in a previous bid, last September, with a price of $26 million dollars. Diego and yo had been auctioned for the last time in 1990, also at Sotheby’s, for $1.4 million dollars. The highest price paid for a Kahlo work until Tuesday’s auction was $8 million for a 1939 canvas, Two Nudes in the Forest, sold five years ago. Hence, the centennial house Sotheby’s saluted the result of the bid, and the revaluation of Kahlo, “which eclipses the record for a Latin American work of art, previously held by her husband Diego Rivera, and beats his own record more than four times.”

The small-sized painting symbolizes the tortuous relationship that the two artists maintained and, above all, the continuous presence of the muralist in Kahlo’s life and aesthetics, with the figure of Rivera, who in turn exhibits a third eye in his forehead, overseeing his wife’s vision – and life. Painted five years before Kahlo’s death and considered the last of her many self-portraits, the work was created during one of the author’s most turbulent periods, due to the physical pain she suffered from multiple operations.

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“Painted the same year that her beloved Diego embarked on an affair with her friend María Félix, this powerful portrait is the painted articulation of her anguish and pain. The result [of the auction] tonight could be called the ultimate revenge, but in fact, it is the ultimate validation of Kahlo’s extraordinary talent and global appeal. Diego and yo is much more than a beautifully painted portrait. It is a painted summary of all the passion and pain of Kahlo, a tour de force of the crude emotional power of the artist at the peak of her creative capacity, ”said Anna di Stasi, Head of Latin American Art at Sotheby’s.


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