Iconic Mexican/German artist Frida Kahlo remains one of the most recognized and coveted artists from Latin America and on Tuesday her artwork broke an auction record. One of her famous self-portraits has become the most expensive work by a Latin American artist ever to sell at auction, going for $34.9 million at a Sotheby’s auction in New York. “Diego y yo” more than tripled the previous record of $9.8 million for, ironically her husband’s, Diego Rivera’s , “The Rivals” in 2019. It also smashed her own previous record of $8 million set in 2016 for her 1939 painting “Two Nudes in the Forest”. This is also not the first time “Diego y Yo” has made history, the painting sold for $1.4 million in 1990 and made her the first Latin American artist to surpass the $1 million mark at auction.
“Painted in the same year her beloved Diego embarked on an affair with her friend, the Mexican Golden Age (actor) Maria Felix, this powerful portrait is the painted articulation of her anguish and sorrow,” Sotheby’s director of Latin American art, Anna Di Stasi said in a press statement. “You could call tonight’s result the ultimate revenge, but in fact it is the ultimate validation of Kahlo’s extraordinary talent and global appeal.”
In the painting Frida is shedding three tears with Diego’s image embedded on her forehead and on his forehead is the mal de ojo. She finished it in 1949 — five years before her death — and its considered her final self-portrait.
“She has such a powerful gaze. She just stares at you, and she just cuts through,” Sotheby’s Anna Di Stasi, director of Latin American art, said in a statement. “And those three tears rolling down her check are just the most powerful tears I have ever seen in the history of art.”
“Diego y yo” was acquired by the Eduardo F. Costantini Collection, identified as the founder of MALBA, Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, the New York Times reported. The auction house did not reveal the seller.
Frida’s art and image continue to make an impact decades after her death in 1954 so this historic moment is not a complete shocker. Last year, a Frida Kahlo fashion exhibit made its West Coast debut in San Francisco’s de Young Museum showcasing her famous huipils, an Indigenous Mexican tunic. The first-ever official Frida Kahlo series started production earlier this year with a Latinx team helming the project in collaboration with the Frida Kahlo Corp., the first time the organization has been a part of a project about the famed artist. Throughout her career she created about 200 paintings, sketches, and drawings and is most famous for her self portrait style.
“Frida is now on the wish list of collectors who collect great masterpieces of modern art,” Brooke Lampley, Sotheby’s chairman and worldwide head of global fine art sales told the NY Times.