Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait Sells for a Record-Breaking $34.9m

by Yah Yah
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Frida Kahlo’s “Diego y yo,” (Diego and I), a portrait of herself with her husband’s image painted on her forehead, made history after it sold for an incredible $34.9 million in a Sotheby’s auction.

The painting is the most expensive work by a Latin American artist ever sold at auction. Ahead of the auction, the painting carried an estimate of $30 to $50 million.

A Sotheby’s spokesperson later identified the buyer as Eduardo F. Costantini, founder of the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires (MALBA) in Argentina.

“I had looked at the painting so many times in books, then all [of a] sudden it came up for auction,” Costantini says. “I had started dreaming about buying the piece,” he told The New York Times, adding that he plans to display the work at MALBA next year.

The Mexican painter first picked up a paintbrush while recovering from a near-fatal bus accident in 1925. On September 17, 1925, Kahlo was returning home from school with her boyfriend, Gómez Arias. After boarding the bus, she hopped off to find an umbrella she had lost as it was raining heavily. Kahlo then boarded a second, more crowded bus.

However, the bus driver tried to pass in front of an oncoming electric streetcar—but the streetcar crashed into the side of the bus, dragging it for a number of feet. Several of the bus passengers died.

Kahlo was impaled by an iron handrail through her pelvis. Her boyfriend, Arias, removed the handrail. The painter’s pelvic bone had been fractured, as well as her abdomen and uterus. Her spine was also broken in three places and her right leg in 11 places. Kahlo’s shoulder was dislocated and her collarbone has been broken plus three vertebrae.

Kahlo’s torrid relationship with painter Diego Rivera was depicted in the 2002 movie, “Frida” where she was portrayed by Salma Hayek. Rivera was a Mexican painter and muralist, 20 years her senior. Rivera was unfaithful to Kahlo several times, even allegedly cheating on her with her own sister.

“I suffered two grave accidents in my life,” Kahlo once said. “One in which a streetcar knocked me down… The other accident is Diego.”

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