From 30 April to 9 August 2010 Berlin’s Martin-Gropius-Bau will be devoting an extensive retrospective to the important Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

Born in Coyoacán, Mexico City, Frida Kahlo is one of the great identification figures of Latin American art. She stands out as one of the most famous female artists of the first half of the 20th century.

Injured in a traffic accident on 17 September 1925 Frida Kahlo spent the rest of her life in pain as a consequence of her frequent operations. These profound experiences left their mark on her work and her world. Her acquaintanceships with such prominent figures of her day as Leon Trotsky, André Breton or Nicholas Murray influenced her eventful life. In 1929 she married the famous Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, who supported her in her artistic career.

Frida Kahlo’s works refer back to the early art of Mexico, that of the Aztecs and the Mayas, reflecting the social, political, and above all private aspects of her life. In 1938 /39 she had very successful one-person exhibitions in both New York and Paris. Later she was given a chair at the Mexican Ministry of Education’s School of Painting and Sculpture, known as “La Esmeralda”. She taught mural and easel painting, receiving the National Art Prize. She was able to sustain her teaching activities for some years before poor health forced her to abandon them.

The exhibition
The exhibition in the Martin-Gropius-Bau, curated by the art historian Helga Prignitz-Poda, will consist of about 150 works (paintings and drawings), making it the most comprehensive show of Frida Kahlo’s work ever staged. For the first time the two largest Kahlo collections will be on display in toto and together. To these must be added valuable loans from 30 Mexican and 15 North American museums and private collections.

Frida Kahlo’s artistic development from the New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit) through Mexican Estridentism – an avant garde, interdisciplinary artistic movement that arose out of the Mexican Revolution – to Surrealism and her very own brand of realism, will be comprehensively presented. In addition to the famous paintings, works by Kahlo that are largely unknown or were believed to be lost will be on show. A particular highlight will be a collection of about 90 drawings, some previously unpublished, and her last works dating from 1954: The self-portrait in oils as a sunflower – a work previously believed to have been destroyed – and the self-portrait drawing will be seen in Europe for the first time. The drawings with surreal compositions reveal a hitherto undiscovered side of Frida Kahlo: her humour. These light-hearted and subtle verbal and visual puns at once conceal and express her thoughts.

Another section of the exhibition will be devoted to the small-format votive paintings which the artist executed in the Mexican ex voto style in the early 1930s. They express the artist’s yearnings for health, independence and fulfilment.

The photographs
In order to keep the biographical details as far as possible from the work context while at the same time granting the visitor insights into her life, the exhibition will be supplemented by an extensive collection of photos belonging to her family and close friends. This section will be curated by Cristina Kahlo, Frida Kahlo’s grandniece. The photos show scenes from the various phases in the life of this exceptional Mexican artist: Frida as a young girl, Frida with her husband Diego Rivera, Frida lying in bed painting her plaster corset, and various individual portraits presenting her as a fascinating woman with magnificent jewellery, traditional costume, and a confident gaze.