Frida Kahlo portrait sells for record $34.9 million in auction

New York: A self-portrait of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo has sold for a record $34.9 million at Sotheby, setting an auction benchmark for the most expensive artwork by a Latin American artist.

The sale, on Tuesday night, of the 1954 oil on masonite self-portrait titled “Diego y yo” (Diego and I) offers a window into her turbulent marriage with Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. The husband is depicted just above Kahlo’s eyes in the centre of her forehead.

The tearful painting was completed by Kahlo in 1949, five years before she died at the age of 47. The artwork was in a private collection and was acquired by the Eduardo F. Costantini Collection, a renowned collector with a longstanding commitment to supporting Latin American art and artists, and founder of Malba, Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, the auctioneers said in a statement.

With this auction, Kahlo has surpassed the previous record of the most expensive Latin American work of art in history sold at auction, which has gone to a painting by Diego Rivera, whose oil on canvas painting “Los Rivales” (1931) fetched $9.76 million in an auction by Christie’s in NewYork in 2018.

An influential and recognizable figure in the twentieth-century pop culture, the artist who is now considered a feminist icon, began painting in 1926 while she was recovering from a bus accident. The accident left her in chronic pain which she channeled into her art.

Kahlo was self-taught and sought out leading painters of Mexico, including Diego Riveria, to teach her. She married Diego Rivera in 1929 and emigrated to the United States, where she lived between 1930 and 1933.

The last time “Diego and I” was sold at Sotheby’s, was in 1990, when it became the first work by a Latin American artist to sell for more than $1 million. The value of Kahlo’s paintings has increased substantially since the 1980s, when one of her portraits sold for $85,000.

Kahlo’s previous auction record was $8m for a painting titled, ‘Two Nudes in a Forest, which sold in 2016. It was the highest price paid for a Latin American artwork until 2018 when Rivera’s, ‘The Rivals’, sold at Christie’s auction house for $9.76m, according to AlJazeera.

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