A new art exhibition that explores the little-known connections Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera had to Poland is bringing works inspired by Mexico's indigenous cultures to a European audience which rarely has the chance to see them.
“Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera. Polish Context” features iconic Kahlo self-portraits and paintings by Rivera alongside works by two Polish-born artists.
The show also tells the story of the mysterious disappearance of a Kahlo painting titled “The Wounded Table” after it was displayed in Poland in 1955.
Organizers hope the exhibit might even lead to the mystery of the lost painting being solved. They are asking for tips from anyone who has information.
The exhibit opens Thursday at the ZAMEK Culture Center in Poznan and will run until January 21.
It features 29 works by Kahlo, most of them from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection that was bequeathed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. There are 10 paintings by Rivera, who was best known for large murals that do not travel. Video screens showing his murals convey a fuller spectrum of his work.
The show also includes works by two Polish-born artists linked to the couple.
One is the photographer Bernice Kolko, who took photos of Kahlo during the last years of her life, even intimate images of the artist on her death bed and at her funeral. The other is Fanny Rabel, who was a student of Kahlo's and an apprentice to Rivera, becoming one of the first female muralists in Mexico.
“This is an exhibition which has a lot of contrasts, including very well-known works and unknown works,” curator Helga Prignitz-Poda said.
The organizers included a photo of the lost “The Wounded Table,” a surrealistic work that last was on public display in 1955 in Warsaw. Poland was a Soviet satellite state at the time.
Kahlo, a Communist, donated it to the Soviet Union, which “was not was not pleased with the gift” given that the Soviet authorities at the time favored Socialist realism, Prignitz-Poda said.
Nobody knows what happened to it. One theory is that the Soviets disliked it so much they destroyed it.
The paintings on display include several of Kahlo's key works, including “Self-portrait with Monkeys” and “Self-portrait as Tehuana,” also known as “Diego in My Thoughts.” The painting shows Kahlo stuck in a web and with a small portrait of Rivera on her forehead, an apparent reference to her long obsession with the husband who betrayed her with other women.
A large portrait by Rivera of Natasha Gelman, the art collector, is also on display.