I visited the Brooklyn Museum on the opening day of the wonderful and timely exhibition, “Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving.” I naively thought that I could beat the crowds: after all, I had arrived at admissions at 12 noon, exactly one hour after the museum opened. Instead, I was surprisingly told I would have to wait until 2:30pm to enter the exhibition (in the meantime, I was able to enter and explore the rest of the museum)! My first recommendation is to buy tickets in advance. I checked the website and noticed that weekend shows for the next several weeks are already sold out.
recommendation is to put away your phone! Visitors are told that photography is
not allowed, but that didn’t stop quite a few rude people from taking out their
phones and ruining the experience for others. If you are one of those people
who just can’t help themselves, consider this for a moment: when you snap a
picture of a painting, that you can probably find online via a museum website,
how often do you go back and look it? How often do you study it? Why ruin a
rare moment of seeing a painting in person by fumbling with your phone? And if
you are snapping a picture on your phone for posting on social media, the
exhibition has two interesting displays to do just that before you enter the
is presented thematically, using paintings by Kahlo and peers, photographs, and
Mexican ceramics to explore Kahlo’s identity. Clothing and make-up are central
to this: for example, Kahlo used native clothing to express her Mexican
nationalism. It was surprising to see that she loved
using perfume and Revlon products (Revlon is the major supporter of this show).
Many of these items had been stored in Casa Azul, the home, Kahlo shared with
her husband, muralist Diego Rivera.
One of the most absorbing, and heartbreaking,
pieces of art was a lithograph depicting Kahlo’s miscarriage. It was as
powerful as the “Henry
Ford Hospital” painting, which explores the same subject. I absolutely
adored the home movies that were shown, which I saw twice! Among my favorite
pieces were the photographs, many of which I had never seen before. Standouts were
those by Gisele Freund, known for
her documentary photography and portraits of writers and artists.
The major problem with this exhibition
is how some of the artwork is displayed, most notably the photographs. Many are
presented in groups of four, with two of the four well below eye range. This means
that if two people stand in front of the four pictures, others have to wait to
properly study and contemplate them (as well as contend with the impolite
people who insist on taking pictures). With the crowds, this simply does not
work. The first two rooms were rather small with one wasted on a second ticket
checkpoint. Yes, there were two
checkpoints to get into the exhibition: one at the door and one in front of a wall,
projecting images of Kahlo. A wall. Interesting.
It has been over sixty years since Kahlo has passed away, but she still continues to fascinate. This exhibition is worth seeing—but only if you can go during a weekday, with minimal crowds. Each piece is worth quiet contemplation. The exhibition notes how much she loved New York City—the world is here and that is what she embraced and probably why we embrace here today. She is a voice from Mexico’s past conveying the need for more bridges and less walls.