The life and work of Frida Kahlo is known throughout artist communities and much of the world. Numerous biographies and critiques have been written about the Mexican painter, and in 2002, Salma Hayek brought the infamous character to life in the movie Frida.
Despite the broad reach of this historic woman, a recent art exhibit is raising a perplexing question: how well do any of us know Frida Kahlo?
Frida Kahlo’s Complete Collection
In San Diego, California, an art exhibit at the Naval Training Center at Liberty Station boasts having all 123 of Kahlo’s paintings on display. The only problem is that none of the paintings are completed by the acclaimed artist.
The title of the exhibit, “The Complete Frida Kahlo: Her Paintings, Her Life, Her Story” is thought to be misleading, as all of the art work are replicas.
The Missing Pieces
Many of those who have visited the displays are unaware that these pieces are merely facsimiles of the real paintings. Disclaimers stating the truth are hard to find and often overlooked.
If this art is not the work of Frida Kahlo, then who should it be accredited to? Four artists from China are responsible for replicating the 123 paintings, but they are not named anywhere throughout the exhibit.
However, the spotlight shines on the couple who arranged this exhibit. Dr. Mariella Remund and Hans-Jürgen Gehrke invested 30 years and their life savings into this project. Five years ago, they decided to present their project to the public. When asked about what drove them to put together this extensive collection, Remund responded, “…we are crazy.” The pair reportedly loves Mexico and admires Mexican culture. They especially enjoy Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.
Completely Dishonest or Just Unconventional?
Despite receiving appropriate rights from Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Museums Trust to replicate the paintings, Remund and Gehrke did not properly advertise these paintings as replicas. The show has been referred to as “completely dishonest” by notable art critics.
Remund stands her ground though. She is not worried that some people think the pieces are Frida Kahlo originals. Nevertheless, she has an 8.5” by 11” sheet of paper displayed at the entrance of the exhibit explaining the paintings are replicas.
What is an art exhibit that has a complete collection of replicated art work? Dishonest or unconventional? Is it a unique approach to honoring historic art, or downright (as Remund says) “crazy”?
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My husband and I just visited the exhibit of Frida Kahlo’s work throughout her life in San Diego. It was wonderful. We were thinking that because so many of the pieces were reproductions it wouldn’t have the same impact. However, seeing her whole story laid out and beautifully displayed brought her to life. I loved it.
As a tribute, fine, but the name does seem misleading.. one would expect a large percentage of originals, and the replicas to be clearly marked.
Interesting piece – Thank you very much!
“Who wants to understand Frida Kahlo, needs to understand Mexico”, for us it was essential to show more than just paintings, to represent Frida’s work in the context of her life, culture and time.
She painted her life and feelings, her dresses, her jewelry, her friends, her pets, Maya and Aztec sculptures she had at home. We wanted to show the complete Frida with everything which was important to her and was in her world. Next to the paintings the visitors will see photographs of the people she painted, her dresses, her jewelry, the furnitures of that time, Maya and Aztec artifacts as she painted them; this will give a 360 degree view of her life and will bring the visitors closer to her.
The exhibition is the result of painstaking research of the last 30 years on Frida’s life and work and on the wonderful Mexican culture and handicrafts.