A self-portrait by Mexican artist Frida Kahlo will go under the hammer next month for an estimated €25 million.
If the painting reaches that figure it will not only be a record sale price for Kahlo, it will become the most valuable work ever by a Latin American artist.
Diego y yo, or ‘Diego and I’, was the last self portrait she completed before her death in 1954.
It will be the star lot at a Sotheby’s auction taking place in New York next month.
It depicts not only the artist, but also her husband, the muralist Diego Rivera, who sits squarely in the centre of her forehead.
Kahlo’s paintings are rarely up for public purchase
Her present record was created in 2016 when Two Nudes in the Forest sold for €6.8 million, also in New York. Diego y yo itself last went up for auction more than 30 years ago.
Kahlo painted herself many times throughout her career, but the fact this was her last portrait increases its value enormously.
Sotheby’s Impressionist Modern Art specialist, Simon Stock, believes this is a special moment in the auction calendar.
“The reason why this is such an event is that Frida Kahlo paintings come to auction so incredibly seldomly. And this is coming to auction in New York in November, and it marks an incredibly rare opportunity to acquire work by Frida,” he says.
Demand for Kahlo’s work has soared in the 21st century, with her likeness used on a plethora of products in fashion and art, much to the dismay of art historians.
Stock agrees with this sentiment, saying that many groups have “co-opted Frida Kahlo’s life for their own ends”.
Capturing an extraordinary relationship
When Kahlo painted this in 1949, rumours were circulating that her husband was having an affair with her good friend Maria Felix. It was just the latest chapter in their difficult marriage, though the pair painted each other for over 25 years.
“This is a very interesting painting, because not only is it a self-portrait, but it also includes the sort of stigmata, this extraordinary image of her husband planted on her forehead. And this speaks a lot about the relationship, which was a tempestuous one,” explains Stock.
Critics have often praised the raw, emotive artwork, capturing the artist as tears fall from her eyes. They say that Diego’s position reflects how he and their relationship dominated her thoughts.
“They in fact were divorced after about 10 years of marriage, but then were reconciled. And this constant interplay between Frida and Diego is something that is brought to the fore in this painting,” he continues.
Diego y yo will be auctioned by Sotheby’s in New York on November 16.