Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait Sets Latin American Record Selling for $35.8 Million

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Photo by Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

Although Frida Kahlo is today a feminist and women’s empowerment icon, and although her work stands on its own, her relationship with muralist Diego Rivera would inspire many of her most famous works.

The love for this “toad prince,” as Frida called him, combined in the epitome of toxicity — an obsessive and recurring relationship. To the point that Diego would become just another symbolism in the surrealist artist’s language.

Five years before her death, and while Diego was having an affair with Mexican film actress Maria Felix, Frida Kahlo painted “Diego y yo,” a self-portrait that shows Frida’s face weeping, while on her forehead, like a third eye above her bushy eyebrows, sits Diego’s portrait.

As was Frida’s style, the work has small dimensions (11.8 inches high by 12.8 inches wide) and shows the artist with her hair down, as she rarely portrayed herself.

“Diego y yo” belonged to a private collection and was auctioned at Sotheby’s in 1990 for $1,430,000. But last Tuesday, Frida’s work set a record price for a work by a Latin American artist at auction when it was sold in New York for $35.8 million. As reported by El Nuevo Día, the sale quadrupled the Mexican painter’s own previous all-time high of $8 million achieved in 2016.

Ironically, the previous record for a Latin American artist was held by Diego Rivera himself, whose painting “Los Rivales” (1931) sold for $9.76 million in 2018.

A Sotheby’s spokesperson identified the buyer of “Diego and I” as Eduardo F Costantini, founder of a Latin American art museum in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aljazeera reported. The Kahlo is for his private collection, and the auction house did not disclose the name of the seller.

Similarly, Tuesday’s auction heralds Sotheby’s recent expansion to include greater representation of marginalized artists, notably women artists. The auction house says Frida Kahlo’s work encompasses “raw emotive power,” with “Diego y yo” capturing “an inner restlessness and distress.”