Frida Kahlo’s indelible image has permeated the cultural membrane so thoroughly, it stands to reason her artworks tend to do incredibly well at auction, and an upcoming auction at Sotheby’s seems destined to continue this trend: scheduled for this November, the planned sale of Kahlo’s gorgeous Diego y yo (Diego and I) is predicted to net upwards of $30 million. The painting is reportedly the last bust portrait the artist completed before her death in 1954, and depicts how Kahlo conceived of the overlapping intellects shared between herself and her prolific husband, the monumental muralist Diego Rivera.
Towards the end of her life, Kahlo was bedridden after having her leg amputated; nevertheless, she continued to work and to pay homage to her husband, who was her constant companion. Rivera championed his wife’s work regularly. “I recommend her to you, not as a husband but as an enthusiastic admirer of her work,” Rivera once told Picasso. “Acid and tender, hard as steel and delicate and fine as a butterfly’s wing, lovable as a beautiful smile, and profound and cruel as the bitterness of life.”
Diego y yo is a profound example of their connection: Kahlo painted the visage of her husband at the center of her forehead, directly where her third eye would be in a more spiritual portrait. However, she also chose to render Rivera’s face with a third eye, creating a doubling effect that speaks to the artist’s deep wells of insight and foresight.
“A painting by Kahlo of this quality and excellence is a rarity at auction,” Julian Dawes, the Co-Head of Impressionist & Modern Art at Sotheby’s New York, said in a statement. “When I look at this painting, the phrase ‘abre los ojos,’ Spanish for ‘open your eyes,’ immediately comes to mind. In the literal sense, it refers to the penetrating stare of Kahlo as the sitter of the portrait (and the double portrait of Rivera), but I think it also symbolizes the incredible moment this painting will surely usher in for Kahlo, as the market opens its eyes to Kahlo in a new way and secures her place in the auction echelon she belongs.”
New on the Block is a series that looks at the most notable or unusual items to go up for auction each week.