Frida Kahlo's Legend Grows With Record Auction Sale

'Diego and I' self-portrait sets $34.9M record for Latin American artist
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 17, 2021 9:35 AM CST
Frida Kahlo's Legend Grows With Record Auction Sale
A staff member poses for photographs with the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo's 1949 self-portrait "Diego y yo", or Diego and I, at Sotheby's auction house in London, on Oct. 21, 2021.   (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

A self-portrait of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, also featuring her husband, has become the most valuable work by a Latin American artist ever to sell at auction. Kahlo's "Diego and I"—a close-up of the artist's face with a miniature portrait of her husband, Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, situated on her forehead—sold for $34.9 million at a Sotheby's auction in New York on Tuesday. Rivera actually held the previous auction record for a Latin American artist. His painting "The Rivals" sold for $9.76 million in 2018, which is equivalent to $10.75 million today, reports the New York Times. The previous auction record for a Kahlo work was $8 million, set in 2016, according to Sotheby's.

The auction house said the 1949 oil painting "Diego and I"—Kahlo's last major self-portrait before her death in 1954, per the Washington Post—was purchased by Eduardo F. Costantini, an Argentine real estate developer and founder of a museum in Buenos Aires, for his private collection. The seller wasn't revealed. The painting sheds light on the turbulence in the couple's relationship, which was "punctuated by a string of infidelities on both sides," per the Post. (They married in 1929, divorced in 1939, then remarried in 1940, per Rise Art.) Kahlo is shown with three teardrops under her eyes and hair wrapping around her neck, for a less poised appearance than in other paintings.

Rivera had begun an affair with Kahlo's friend, actor Maria Felix, in the year the painting was created, per the Post. Rivera is shown with a third eye "to symbolize the degree to which he occupied her consciousness," per Sotheby's. The painting was previously sold by Sotheby's for $1.4 million in 1990. Tuesday's price "is the result of massive pent-up interest in the artist and very little inventory," Gregorio Luke, former director of California's Museum of Latin American Art, tells the Times. He notes Mexican laws prevent most sales of works by major 19th- and 20th-century artists within the country, so "there are probably less than 20 to 30 paintings of hers on the market." (More Frida Kahlo stories.)

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