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Exhibition: Frida Kahlo and the Gelman Collection

Museum | Art | Exhibitions | Event | culture

The exhibition coming to Palazzo Albergati on 19 November 2016 to the 26th of March 2017 is one with a heart-breaking, beautiful story. The Gelman Collection - one of the most important in twentieth-century Mexican art, which places primary emphasis on the works of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera - tells the story of the "Mexican Renaissance" (1920-1960) and of the artists who led it.

The beginnings of the German collection go back to 1941, when Jacques Gelman and Natasha Zahalkaha, two emigrants from Eastern Europe, met and got married in Mexico City. Jacques was a Russian Jew from St Petersburg who emigrated to France after the October Revolution. He arrived in Mexico in 1938, where he would make his fortune producing comedy films with Mario Moreno, known as Mexico's Charlie Chaplin. In 1943 Jacques commissioned Diego Riviera to paint a portrait of Natasha: it would be the beginning of a life-long adventure and a remarkable collection.

The Gelmans begin to collect the works of Mexico's greatest artists, names such as María Izquierdo, David Alfaro Siquieros, Rufino Tamayo and Ángel Zárraga. Their collection also came to include works by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, destined to become one of the most famous pairs of artists in the world, both for their work and for their endless, intense and destructive relationship. As Frida wrote in her diaries, "there have been two great accidents in my life. One was the tram and the other was Diego."

The Gelman collection - consisting of paintings, photographs, clothing, jewellery, collages, lithographs and drawings - is coming to Bologna for a special exhibition. For the first time, the collection will be shown together with clothing from the greatest internationally renowned fashion designers who took their inspiration from Frida Kahlo: Gianfranco Ferré, Antonio Marras and Valentino are just a few of those who wanted to participate in the exhibition. The paintings in the Gelman collection comprise two distinct groups: the first includes the great twentieth-century European artists, and today these works are in New York, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The other group remained in Mexico, at the Fundación Vergel. It consists of work by Mexican painters.

The works by Frida will include iconic world-famous paintings such as Self-Portrait with Necklace (1933), Me and My Doll (1937), Self-Portrait with Monkeys (1943), Self-Portrait as a Tehuana (1943) and those inextricably connected with her love for Diego, such as The Love Embrace of the Universe, the Earth (Mexico), Myself, Diego and Senor Xolotl (1949), and an extraordinarily powerful naturaleza viva (as opposed to naturaleza morta, the Spanish term for still life), The Bride Frightened at Seeing Life Opened (1943). Frida was her own most powerful biographer; through her artworks we retrace the life of a woman who was spared no suffering: the bus accident that destroyed her spine, the miscarriages, her troubled relationship with Diego, the infidelities, the physical pain and her early death; in the rooms of this exhibition, visitors will relive Frida's emotions and her pain.

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Jacques and Natasha Gelman
The Gelmans were two of Mexico's most prominent celebrities in the forties and fifties, and their great popularity derived from Jacques's work making films. The Riveras had a certain familiarity with the cinema, as evidenced by the appearances they made in various documentaries and shorts, including an interesting piece which was shot in Rivera's studio in 1955, one year after Frida's death, and which can be seen in the exhibition. 

Diego Rivera and the Mexican Reanaissance
When Jacques Gelman arrived in Mexico, the country was at the height of what would be called the "Mexican Renaissance", a period that lasted from 1920 to 1960. Central players in this Latin American Renaissance were the muralists: Rivera, Siqueiros and Orozco. All three were sons of the 1910 revolution of Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata, and in 1921 they were called on by the Minister of Education, José Vasconcelos, to mount an extensive programme of public art as a tool for participation and cultural growth in the delicate post-revolutionary phase. Even as they became world-famous for their murals, they never abandoned easel painting, and the Gelmans selected them for their collection of authentic masterpieces. 

Frida Kahlo
The second floor of Palazzo Albergati is devoted to the story and the work of Frida, organized by theme, and to Frida Kahlo the fashion icon.

Frida Kahlo and photography. Frida was the daughter of a photographer, Guillermo Kahlo, a German Jew of Hungarian origin, and she knew how to pose for the camera: proud and triumphant, serious and sullen, with the gaze of a warrior, yet without indulging in eye-catching poses and gestures. Here we find the photographs of Edward Weston, Fritz Henle, Leo Matiz and Lola Álvarez Bravo, who organized Frida Kahlo's only solo exhibition in Mexico, in 1953. The standouts are the colour photographs by Nickolas Murray, American photographer of Hungarian origin who met Frida in 1931, and with whom she had an on-again-off-again affair that lasted decade.

Frida Kahlo, Aztec goddess. Reigning over this room is the 1933 Self-Portrait with Necklace, surrounded by photos by Imogen Cunningham and Lucienne Bloch, in which Frida appears bedecked with jewellery; where dirt-cheap trinkets or precious jade, rich colonial gold pendants and a fistful of rings, there was always a lot of it, adorning her like an Aztec goddess.

Frida Kahlo: biologist and naturalist. This room holds a series of works born out of Frida's physical torments, works that describe her suffering with images of diseased organs (her fractured spine, her bandaged foot and barren womb) and soften the emotional pain with scientific elucidation. Frida turned her own body into a territory to investigate, exploring it with that "German, analytical" eye that Rivera wrote of in 1943, the eye of a "naturalist and biologist", as she herslf put it.

Frida and Diego. "He sufrido dos accidentes graves en mí vida[...] Uno, en que un tranvia me atropelló, cuando yo tenía 16 años: fractura de la columna, 20 años de inmovilidad... El otro accidente es Diego..." This is the section devoted to Diego, the husband the Frida felt tied to by destiny.

Frida's pets. They appear in several self-potraits as the loving companions of her life, often depicted in comforting postures when Frida was saddened by physical pain or by Diego's infidelities, and they assume the artist's own expressios- angry, open or proud. They are always her beloved pets, but they also indicate her state of mind.

Frida Kahlo, fashion icon. The Frida-inspired looks in this exhibition include: the dramatic constriction of the corset (Gianfranco Ferré in 1993 and Jean-Paul Gaultier, who provided the video Tribute to Frida Kahlo, from 1997), the colourful patchworks of rich fabrics (Raffaella Curiel, 2008 and Antonio Marras, 2006), and covered with the flora and fauna that fill her paintings (Valentino, 2015).

Curated by Gioia Mori, the exhibition is sponsored by the Municipality of Bologna and is produced and organized by Arthemisia Group. Initiative sponsor: INBA (Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes). MondoMostre and Skira collaborated on the realization on the exhibition. With special partner Ricola, and technical sponsors for the exhibition Trenitalia and La Rosa. Hospitality Partners: Grand Hotel Majestic "Giá Baglioni" and Monrif Hotels. The event is recommended by Sky Arte HD.

The providers and organizers have decided to donate a portion of the proceeds from the exhibition to earthquake victims.

Date: November the 19th to March the 26th 2017
Hour: from 10AM to 8PM
Ticket price: €15,50
Where: Palazzo Albergati Bologna

Press release
Arthemisia Group Press Office
press@arthemisia.it

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