Frida Kahlo (1907–1954) is considered one of the most significant artists of the twentieth century. Her body of work, consisting of some 250 paintings and drawings, is at once intensely personal and universal in scope, and relies heavily on the natural world. The exhibition Frida Kahlo’s Garden transports visitors to Kahlo’s garden to experience her world as she did. Frida Kahlo’s Garden opens on November 18, 2021.
The garden at Casa Azul (or Blue House), Kahlo’s lifelong home in Coyoacán, Mexico City, was a creative refuge and a source of inspiration for the artist and her husband, Diego Rivera (1886–1957). The garden, which was filled with native plants, housed Kahlo and Rivera’s collection of pre-Hispanic artifacts and folk art displayed on a four-tiered pyramid inspired by the Mesoamerican city of Teotihuacan. This exhibition offers insights into the ways in which the garden at Casa Azul, the diversity of plant life in Mexico, and the rich cultural history of the country nourished the creativity of the world’s great artists.
Often overshadowed by her husband’s career and the traumatic events in her life, this exhibition approaches Kahlo from a different angle, to broaden the discussion of the artist by focusing on the influence of her surrounding environment, both natural and nationalistic. This approach examines her garden, her home, and the revolutionary influences that impacted her life.
Kahlo’s works are filled with colorful and compelling depictions of flowers, foliage, and fruits, many native to Mexico. Her choice of botanical imagery reflects the embrace of archetypal Mexican indigenous and natural elements that defined art in the decades following the Mexican Revolution (1910–20). Through her profoundly personal paintings, which convey cultural, spiritual, and intimate messages, her reverence for nature, and her nationalistic fashion sense, Kahlo has become an icon within the artistic world.
Visitors to this exhibition will explore iconic photographs of the artist and her home and garden, in addition to reproductions of several of her paintings. Also included is information about native Mexican plants that were grown in her garden, a dress from the Mexican state of Oaxaca where Kahlo sourced much of her attire, and examples of folk art collected by Kahlo and Rivera. Additionally, visitors will learn about Mexican culture, including traditional festivities, food and drink, and agricultural practices.
This exhibition is made possible by NEH on the Road, a special initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Frida Kahlo’s Garden is adapted from the exhibition, FRIDA KAHLO: ART, GARDEN, LIFE, organized by guest curator Adriana Zavala at The New York Botanical Garden. It was made possible with major funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Karen Katen Foundation, The LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, MetLife Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and Gillian and Robert Steel. It was adapted and toured for NEH on the Road by the Mid-America Arts Alliance.