Frida Kahlo’s Home Welcomes Virtual Visitors| 07 May, 2020
When you consider her worldwide fame, it’s surprising to learn that Frida Kahlo – Mexico’s greatest-ever artist – never traveled far from her home country during her lifetime. Granted, she spent some time in the United States of America trying to further her career as an artist, but ultimately she came back to her own country for the final phase of her work and her life. In fact, not only did she barely leave the country, but she barely left her first home. She was born in the house known as Casa Azul in the Coyoacan district of Mexico City, and she died there, too.
Perhaps the reason she stayed close to her roots is that she didn’t become properly recognized for her contributions to art during her lifetime. Like Vincent van Gogh, Kahlo’s work only came to be appreciated in the years after she passed away. She died in July 1954, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that Kahlo originals began to change hands for significant amounts of money. She was known in her lifetime as an eccentric and a socialite because of her marriage to Diego Rivera, but not as an artist anywhere other than Mexico. Even in Mexico, she wasn’t especially revered. She got her recognition in the end, and the 70s phenomenon that became known as ‘Fridamania’ ensured that she eventually got the recognition that she so richly deserved – but it was long overdue, and sadly she never had the chance to see it.
The fact that Kahlo never saw her work appreciated is sad, but one of the quirks of her spending so much of her time in the same place is that her house – known to many simply as ‘The Blue House,’ still had many of her most admired works inside it at the time of her passing. It still does today more than half a century later, and the collection has been added to over time. You’ll find Kahlo works in high-end art galleries all over the world, but the bulk of her work has stayed, quite rightly, in Mexico, where it’s formed part of the country’s national cultural heritage. Kahlo’s former home has been open as a museum for many years now, but seeing it involved the small matter of taking a trip to Mexico City. Not anymore, though. As of this month, you no longer need to be in Mexico City to see Kahlo’s home and her work.
Thanks to the continuing development of technology, the entire interior of Casa Azul has been digitized, and the resulting digital product has been made available to the whole world for virtual tours. Not only does this open up the potential for Kahlo’s work to be seen by an even wider (and probably younger) audience, it also solves the problem of queuing and crowding that’s become a noted issue at the physical site. The Blue House isn’t just a museum for fans of Kahlo’s work – it’s a place of pilgrimage. Hundreds of thousands of people flock to see it every year, and because of that, much like Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam, it can be hard to gain access during the busiest times of the year.
As bold and visionary as this project appears to be, it isn’t the only digitization of a great artist’s work we’ve seen in recent years. Both the aforementioned Vincent van Gogh and Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci have had their work uploaded to a sphere that most people don’t associate with fine art; the land of best UK slots and online casinos. Da Vinci and van Gogh both now have online slots named in their honor, and the games contain likenesses and representations of many of their best-known paintings. Kahlo was heavily influenced by da Vinci and the Renaissance style during her younger years, and so perhaps she’ll find her way to online slots websites in the future, too. For now, though, the digitization of her home living environment is probably far enough. The world of gambling could use a less stereotypical image of Mexico and Mexicans in online slots, where jumping beans, sombreros, and hot chillis are still the order of the day in terms of representation, and so Kahlo would be an ideal choice – but we’re not there yet.
Instead of just focusing on the artwork and working areas of the Blue House, the team behind the project has mapped out everything that you’d see if you visited the address in person. The kitchen, with its vivid yellow walls, where she once welcomed Leon Trotsky as a guest for tea, is also included. The bedroom where she spent a long period of time recuperating from a bus accident and started painting as a way of passing the time is also accessible. Even her bedside mirror, which she used as a reference guide when creating her many self-portraits, has been studiously photographed and uploaded. Every nook and cranny of the building has been faithfully recreated, and so the only thing you’ll miss out on by taking the virtual tour as opposed to the physical one is the ability to touch anything. As touching the priceless artifacts in the museum is discouraged by tour guides, you could even argue that you’re not missing out on anything at all!
Aside from including some of the artist’s best-known and most-celebrated works, including the famous ‘Portrait of my Father,’ and ‘Long Live Life,’ the museum also features a few examples of the works of Diego Riviera – the husband who was considered far more important than her in life, but has been relegated to the position of being a secondary exhibit in death. Outside in Kahlo’s courtyard, you’ll find her collection of Toltec and Aztec statues and carvings, which are no less enigmatic now than they were a century ago. This is as complete a virtual tour as we’ve ever seen, and it’s well worth your time to take a look at it if you don’t have the inclination or opportunity to pay a visit to Mexico City in person. You’ll find the tour on her official website, which is a quick Google search away. As of right now, there’s no charge for admission, but if it proves to be popular, that might change – so take advantage of it while you can.
Follow Sounds and Colours: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Mixcloud / Soundcloud / Bandcamp
Subscribe to the Sounds and Colours Newsletter for regular updates, news and competitions bringing the best of Latin American culture direct to your Inbox.