A rare and emotional self-portrait by famed Mexican painter Frida Kahlo is estimated to bring in excess of $30 million when it goes to auction in November, Sotheby’s announced Wednesday, a sum that would break multiple art market records.
“Diego y yo” is the last of the bust-length portraits Kahlo painted of herself throughout her career, the auction house said, and features the artist gazing intensely at the viewer with an image of her husband and fellow Mexican artist Diego Rivera painted onto her forehead.
Kahlo’s depiction of herself as vulnerable and tearful with Rivera portrayed literally on her mind reflects the state of their tumultuous relationship in 1949 when “Diego y yo” was painted, Sotheby’s said, when Rivera was carrying on an affair with one of Kahlo’s friends.
If the painting fetches $30 million as Sotheby’s expects, it would be more than three times more than the record price for a work by Kahlo set in 2016, when her painting “Dos desnudos en el bosque (La tierra misma)” sold for $8 million.
“Diego y yo” could also become the most expensive work by a Latin American artist, beating out the record-holding work by Rivera himself, whose painting “The Rivals” sold for nearly $10 million in 2018.
A $30 million price tag would also make “Diego y yo” the second most expensive painting by a female artist, after American painter Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1,” which brought in $44.4 million in 2014.
“Diego y yo” will be available for public viewing in Hong Kong, London and New York before the auction, Sotheby’s said.
$1.4 million. That’s how much “Diego y yo” sold for in 1990, making Kahlo the first Latin American artist to fetch a seven-figure sum at auction, according to Sotheby’s.
“Diego y you,” previously owned by a private collector, is the last of the bust self-portraits Kahlo completed before her death in 1954 after decades of health struggles, many of them stemming from a childhood case of polio and a horrific bus accident Kahlo survived at age 18. She turned to painting after the accident when she was on best rest for three months. Much of her work deals with the chronic pain she would experience for the rest of her life, along with the culture of her native Mexico, the country’s indigenous traditions and how the two intersected with colonialism, gender and class. The roughly 200 paintings Kahlo completed during her lifetime rarely hit the auction block, and Mexico City’s Museo Dolores Olmedo holds the largest collection of Kahlo’s work. Kahlo’s paintings exploded in popularity more than two decades after her death in the 1970’s, aligning with the rise of feminist movement.