A self-portrait of Frida Kahlo, an artist known for her raw emotional intensity, sold for $ 34.9 million at Sotheby’s on Tuesday night, setting an auction benchmark for an artist’s most expensive work of art Latin American.
Completed five years before his death in 1954, the oil painting âDiego and Iâ is one of Kahlo’s last self-portraits and an example of the unsettling intimacy that drew collectors to his paintings. The work offers a window into his eventful marriage to Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, who is depicted in it just above the artist’s teary eyes.
By setting a new record for a Latin American artist at auction, Kahlo surpassed the benchmark set by Rivera in 2018, when one of his paintings sold at auction for $ 9.76 million, the equivalent of $ 10.75 million today, including inflation.
Referring to âDiego and I,â Adriana Zavala, who curated a 2015 Kahlo exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden, said: âThis is an important late work from a time when her physical suffering s ‘was intensified and his painting became erratic.
Ms Zavala added: “She looks less polite and composed.”
Kahlo, who was born in 1907 in Mexico City, began painting in 1926 as she was recovering from a bus accident that had left her with chronic pain. She has developed a rich iconography touching on the realms of life and death, mixing violence and vulnerability in a way that has often shocked viewers by pushing gender norms. She died at the age of 47.
A Sotheby’s spokesperson identified the buyer of the painting as Eduardo F. Costantini, the founder of a museum in Buenos Aires. The work was purchased for his private collection. The spokesperson refused to reveal the identity of the seller.
The winning auction of $ 34.9 million after fees was taken by Anna Di Stasi, Latin American Art Director at Sotheby’s. A big sale had been secured even before the auction started because Sotheby’s had accepted both a guarantee and an irrevocable offer, that is to say that a third party had already made an offer that it could not withdraw.
âIt’s a museum-quality piece,â said Brooke Lampley, president of Sotheby’s and global head of global art sales. She added that cultural institutions have shown interest in the artwork but demand from private collectors has been high. âFrida is now on the wish list of collectors who collect the great masterpieces of modern art. “
The last time âDiego and Iâ was sold at Sotheby’s was in 1990, when it became the first work by a Latin American artist to sell for over a million dollars. The value of Kahlo’s paintings has increased dramatically since the 1980s, when one of his portraits sold for $ 85,000. Some art historians attribute the rise in prices to the increasingly limited availability of his paintings.
âFrida is becoming one of the most popular artists in the world,â said Gregorio Luke, former director of the California Museum of Latin American Art. He explained that Mexican laws prevent most sales of prominent 19th and 20th century artists, like Kahlo, within the country. âThe award is therefore the result of massive pent-up interest in the artist and very little inventory,â he said. “There are probably less than 20 to 30 paintings of her on the market.”
Some admirers watching the auction saw Kahlo’s ability to surpass her husband’s record as a sign of the times. Often with married artist couples, it is the woman who is forgotten, explained Jorge Daniel Veneciano, chief curator at the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles. “In terms of gender policy, this is a good thing,” said Mr. Veneciano. âNow we could say that Diego Rivera is Frida Kahlo’s husband because she surpasses him. “