Traditional museum exhibitions have run their course. We are a multimedia 24/7 society, museums are stale institutions. Including a psychedelically lit corridor does not do it. There is more to life and art than meets the eye, writing snippets of a story on a wall is not it. Fighting for space to read that tiny piece of storytelling, in a sold-out exhibition, is definitely not it. The didactical approach has run its course. Frida Kahlo is more than her eyebrows. Bringing just a handful of her paintings to London is a poor excuse for an exhibition on Frida Kahlo. Screaming that she is very influential means nothing to most. Why is she such a revered figure? Where is her art? Her art is herself, this is what we are told. But that feels like selling Frida Kahlo unibrow costumes for carnival, (incidentally this is what you find online when you type her name). We have strived so hard to democratise knowledge just to trivialise it. We just want to sell more rubbish, how many arty fridge magnets do we need? How many arty bags do we need? How many arty shawls do we need?
All in all I found the exhibition superficial. You can’t reduce a complex, hurt human being to selected biographical facts printed on a wall and a collection of rings.
How many operations are needed to repair a broken body? What do you need to repair a broken soul?
I found very moving the presence of one corset only – they looked like instruments of torture, the amount of drugs Frida Kahlo must have taken just to endure pain is impossible to quantify – I was saying that I found very moving the presence of a corset where a detailed foetus, more than a foetus, a baby had been painted in the space where it would have developed in her body if the only baby she was able to conceive were born. An impossible dream for a very sick person, a woman whose life was marred and eventually cut short by a fateful crash.
The rest of the exhibition was showcasing the handsome Kahlo through endless photographs and her colourful clothes. “I am my own muse” read the t-shirts on sale in the museum shop. She was one of a kind, but the self- advertising exhibition at the V&A in London, just doesn’t tell her tale, it certainly doesn’t portray her art.
Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up, V&A museum London 16 October 2018