My husband and I went to see the Frida Kahlo exhibit at the V&A.
I had no idea what to expect. I confess this is my first time going to see a special exhibit that has to be paid for separately.
Before I share my thoughts let me give a bit of background. I found out that the exhibit was happening in December 2017 while leafing through a magazine at an indoor play centre. I told my hubs straight away that we would be going in July to see it. I have loved the few paintings by Frida that I had come across though I knew little about her. To prepare for the exhibit, I decided to read up on her life and her works.
In Leeds, we have a well-stocked Arts library that had over a dozen books on Frida. I read three book – my favourite was Kahlo by Gerry Souter. Over the months even my kids got in on the Frida love and they loved leafing through the giant art books studiously examining her paintings. They liked the ones that had a lot going on like this one…….
My Dress Hangs Here by Frida Kahlo 1933
They played at trying to tell the story of the picture. They were fascinated by the fact that she survived such a horrific accident and still lived her best life.
By the time we went to the exhibit, I felt like I knew enough to be able to get the most of this possibly once in a lifetime opportunity.
It was really packed. We all ended up ignoring the whole personal space rule otherwise you couldn’t get a chance to see properly. I was annoyed at people taking pictures in the exhibit despite all the signs saying not to.
I had decided that I wasn’t going to be taking any pictures or doing Instagram on that day because I wanted to savour it through my own lens and it was the right decision.
The dresses are magnificent, beyond words. Despite the beauty of the selection of clothes on display, it was the previous room that made the most impact on me. The bright clothes are juxtaposed with all the turbulent imagery of her medical paraphernalia. The steel and leather corsets, the prosthetic leg that was made for her amputated leg. All driving home the incredible amount of pain she endured. Gazing at them I couldn’t help but wonder if she had known that she would be so famous – would she have behaved differently or done things differently? I doubt it.
As I exited the exhibit lost in my mind thinking about Frida and her life, in awe of her resilience, fortitude, passion for life; I was jolted back into the instant gratification brightly lit world of our modern life in the museum shop. I was surrounded by loads of Frida merchandise. From the tacky to the luxe. Brightly coloured earrings and little cut outs of her dresses. It was quite jarring.
Its probably standard and something that I will get used to as I go to more special exhibits like this. I have a healthy respect for commerce but this felt ……odd…for me. I felt robbed of my introspective dialogue. It felt like an intrusion. I bought a few bits and bobs to take back home to my kids – they had so wanted to come with us.
As I paid for the merch, I couldn’t help but wonder who is profiting from all this? I hope the money ends up with the people of Mexico whom she loved so fiercely.
It was interesting to see it with my husband who knew little about her. He liked that it did a good job of painting the person. It wasn’t about the art. They expanded on the Frida Kahlo myth; building the character for a new generation. He enjoyed it too.
Our next V&A trip will be to see the Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibit. I am interested in this because I watched an Amazon Originals show called The Collection which was loosely based on Dior’s post war “New Look”. Though the I didn’t ultimately like the show enough to want to continue watching another season – the designs were exquisite.
Thanks for reading. Did you go to the Frida exhibit? What were your thoughts? I’d love to know.
Peace and love,