Frida Kahlo’s final self-portrait “Diego y yo” “(Diego and I)” is a rare and wondrous work that depicts the feminist figure in a surrealist scene with her husband and fellow painter Diego Rivera, and it could be yours as it comes to the bidding block at Sotheby’s this November.
The portrait was completed in 1954 before Kahlo’s death and has been estimated to sell for more than $30 million.
The sale will be a historical triumph for Latin American artists as Kahlo’s piece may become the most valuable work of Latin American art ever sold at auction. No matter the final price, Kahlo will surely surpass her record of $8 million via a previous auction in 2016.
“Frida Kahlo’s emotionally bare and complex portrait ‘Diego y yo’ is a defining work by one of the few artists whose influence transcends the world of fine art to pop culture and beyond,” Brooke Lampley, Sotheby’s Chairman and Worldwide Head of Sales for Global Fine Art, is quoted in a press release. “To offer this portrait in our Modern Evening Sale in November heralds the recent expansion of the Modern category to include greater representation of underrepresented artists, notably women artists, and rethink how they have historically been valued at auction.”
“Diego y yo” follows Kahlo’s artistic repertoire of “bust” portraits. Her pieces represent her life as she often depicts her struggles through paintings. This piece portrays her complicated relationship with her husband, building a deeply-personal concept within its fantastical scene.
One can see the raw emotion and hurt in this painting as tears stream from Kahlo’s eyes. It feels penetrating as Kahlo’s gaze transcends into the eyes of the spectator. This piece could be considered a double-portrait, as a small image of Rivera can be found in the center of her forehead.
“A painting by Kahlo of this quality and excellence is a rarity at auction,” Julian Dawes, Sotheby’s Co-Head of Impressionist and Modern Art in New York, is quoted. “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 [where] she belongs.”
Rivera’s smaller portrait in the piece depicts the artist with three eyes, representing the space he occupies in Kahlo’s mind. Her hair wraps around her neck, almost as if she is suffocating from pain.
The construction of the piece follows Rivera’s relationship with Mexican diva, Maria Félix. Rivera painted a sensual portrait of the woman in 1949, and the public rumors deeply wounded Kahlo.
The Modern Evening Sale will mark the beginning of a large reorganization of Sotheby’s General Fine Art evening sales.
“Diego y Yo” will be on public display from Oct. 7 to 11 in Hong Kong and Oct. 22 to 25 in London before returning to New York for exhibition before the November sale. Visit Sotheby’s online to learn more.
Photography by: Courtesy of Sotheby's; Frida Kahlo