The New York Botanical Garden announces its major 2015 exhibition, Frida Kahlo’s Garden, focusing on the iconic artist’s engagement with nature in her native country of Mexico. Opening on May 16, 2015, and remaining on view through November 1, 2015, the exhibition will be the first solo presentation of Kahlo’s work in New York City in more than 25 years, and the first exhibition to focus exclusively on Kahlo’s intense interest in the botanical world.
Visitors to the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory will walk through a stunning flower show re-imagining Kahlo’s studio and garden at Casa Azul (“Blue House”) in Coyoacán, Mexico City. Curated by distinguished art historian and specialist in Mexican art Adriana Zavala, Ph.D., the multifaceted exhibition will include a rare display of more than a dozen original Kahlo paintings and drawings on view in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library’s Rondina and LoFaro Gallery at the Garden. Accompanying events invite visitors to learn about Kahlo’s Mexico in a new way through poetry, lectures, themed events, tours, a Mexican food market, and an iPhone app.
“Frida Kahlo’s Garden will be a one-of-a-kind exhibition that will provide an in-depth look at Kahlo’s work and artistic environment and also celebrate the energy and sophistication of Mexican culture,” explains Gregory Long, CEO and The William C. Steere Sr. President at the Garden. “Frida Kahlo is a profoundly important artist whose work reflects the complexity of the artist’s life and times. The Garden is proud to present this focused look at Kahlo’s work, which examines how it was influenced by nature.”
The Garden at Casa Azul:
The landmark Enid A. Haupt Conservatory at The New York Botanical Garden will come alive with the colors and textures of Frida Kahlo’s home country of Mexico during the 2015 exhibition. Visitors entering the exhibition will view a re-imagined version of Kahlo’s garden at Casa Azul, the artist’s childhood home outside of Mexico City where she resided in her later years, transforming it with traditional Mexican folk-art objects, colonial-era art, religious ex-voto paintings, and native Mexican plants. Passing through the blue courtyard walls, visitors will stroll along lava rock paths lined with flowers, showcasing a variety of plants native to Mexico. A scale version of the pyramid at Casa Azul—originally created to display pre-Columbian art collected by Kahlo’s husband, famed muralist Diego Rivera—will showcase Mexican terra-cotta pots filled with plants found in her garden.
Kahlo’s Works on View:
The LuEsther T. Mertz Library’s Rondina and LoFaro Gallery at the Garden will exhibit more than a dozen of Kahlo’s paintings and works on paper—many borrowed from private collections—highlighting the artist’s use of botanical imagery in her work. This never-before-seen grouping of artworks will include Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (1940); Flower of Life (1944); Still Life with Parrot and Flag (1951); and Self-Portrait Inside a Sunflower (1954).
Programming Throughout the Garden:
Programs will include weekend music and dance performances from folk to mariachi to contemporary. “Frida al Fresco” evenings during the summer will feature live music, cocktails, and Mexican-inspired dinner menus. Visitors will be invited to stroll through booths and sample food in the Conservatory marketplace, a version of the Coyoacán market. A self-guided Mexican Plant Tour will showcase the more than 75 plants native to Mexico and located in the various collections throughout the Garden’s 250 acres. Developed in partnership with the Poetry Society for America, a poetry walk will highlight the work of three important 20th-century Mexican poets—Pita Amor (1918–2000), Salvador Novo (1904–1974), Octavio Paz (1914–1998), and Carlos Pellicer (1897–1977).
Events will include a day-long symposium entitled Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera—Mexican Art in the 20th Century; a Mexican film festival; and food and culture festivals.
iPhone App with Augmented Reality:
A free iPhone app will be available in the App Store through a partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies. The components will use augmented reality to provide users with a more detailed look at Casa Azul; teach users about Kahlo’s artistic process and inspirations—including the plants she studied and depicted; and, through a partnership with other fine art museums, include reproductions of paintings in which cultural and medicinal facts will be given about identifiable native Mexican plants. Whenever possible, content will be offered in both English and Spanish.
About Frida Kahlo, Her Work, Her Garden:
Frida Kahlo (1907–1954), revered as one of the most significant artists of the 20th century, has risen to prominence over the past three decades as an international symbol of Mexican and feminist identity. Important aspects of her life’s story, including her tumultuous relationship with her husband, muralist Diego Rivera (1886–1957), and her struggle with injury and illness, are well known and have been documented in countless biographies, exhibitions, fictional accounts, and analyses of her art. Frida Kahlo’s Garden will add to this legacy by showcasing the artist’s love of Mexican plants and nature.
Of Kahlo’s approximately 200 paintings, 55 are self-portraits, and many more are portraits of friends and colleagues, including art patrons. Many of these portraits incorporate plants and other organic materials.
In her still-life paintings, she depicts a variety of Mexican fruit and flowers alongside animals, Mexican folk art, and pre-Columbian objects. Kahlo’s inclusion of plants and nature in her work spans her entire career but her most intensive dedication to the still-life genre dates to the 1940s and 1950s, particularly as her health declined and she was increasingly confined to her home and garden, which underwent its most significant period of development during the 1930s and 1940s.