Palais Galliera, in the cupboards of Frida Kahlo

In a self-portrait sketched in pencil around 1937, on the eve of her 30th birthday, Frida Kahlo depicts herself drawing herself, with five straight arms. One combs her hair, two adjust the position of her head, another holds the notebook and the last rests along her skirt. As in a chronophotography by Eadweard Muybridge, these decomposed gestures make visible the artist’s creative process and synthesize, in a few strokes, the way in which Frida Kahlo shaped her image during her short life.

The Palais Galliera retraces all the stages of this “self-invention” based on an astonishing collection of objects, unearthed from oblivion fifty years after the death of the artist. In 1957, Diego Rivera had certain rooms in the family home in Mexico City placed under seal, as well as several trunks and wardrobes containing the personal effects of his wife, who had disappeared three years earlier.

A selection of 200 pieces

According to his last wishes, this treasure was to remain buried for fifteen years. It will remain so until 2003, the director of the “Casa Azul” transformed into a museum having preferred to postpone its unveiling after her own death. It took almost four years to inventory the impressive set of documents, letters, photographs (6,500!), but also around thirty drawings and nearly 300 clothes, jewellery, shoes, the restoration and classification of which are still in progress. Classes.

A selection of two hundred pieces was unveiled to the Mexican public in 2012 before starting a tour in London (at the Victoria & Albert Museum), New York, San Francisco, Assen (Netherlands) and now Paris. The route, both chronological and thematic, intelligently brings the objects into dialogue with the artist’s paintings, some on loan, most of them reproduced, and the many photographs in which she portrays herself in her daily life, with the complicity of Gisèle Freund. or her lover Nickolas Muray.

Coming to terms with your difference

From an early age, Frida Kahlo learned the art of posing with her father, a German photographer, and as a teenager she already displays this haughty bearing, this frank look, almost defiant, as when she disguises herself in boy in family photos. The young girl had to come to terms with her difference very early on: her mixed origins and her body bruised by poliomyelitis, contracted at the age of 6, then by a terrible tram accident which occurred at the age of 18.

The traditional Zapotec outfit that she adopted as a young adult and whose power of fascination she discovered for Americans during a trip to “Gringolandia” in the 1930s, allowed her to hide her handicap but also to affirm her Mexican identity and his political convictions, in a country undergoing an artistic renaissance and rediscovering its heritage.

Her wardrobe contains, in a joyful mix, sumptuous tunics embroidered with traditional motifs or bearing the inscription “Viva M.exico », pre-Columbian jade bead necklaces, but also Chinese skirts, sourced in San Francisco, and European-style blouses. The most moving pieces remain the plaster corsets painted by the artist, a fragile revenge on the disease that will eventually prevail at 47 years old.

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