Mexican culture celebrated at NCMA with Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera

The work of artistic icon Frida Kahlo will be on display at the North Carolina Museum of Art beginning October 26. The exhibit Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism is a highlighted curation from the renowned Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection.

The Gelmans began collecting art after relocating to Mexico from Eastern Europe during World War II, says Jennifer Dasal, NCMA’s curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. The couple formed a close relationship with Frida Kahlo and husband Diego Rivera, commissioning pieces and collecting their work. The Gelmans also collected related art from prominent Mexican artists like Rufino Tamayo and David Alfaro Siqueiros.

Dasal says the exhibit is fused with Mexicanidad, a concept coined in the early 20th century that captures a cultural movement whose goal was to define what it means to be Mexican. She says the art brings the personality of the community and its history. “That goal was so general, it was reflected in so many styles, shown in this exhibition. There is photography exploring indigenous people, abstract art and of course, Frida’s very personal and symbolic paintings. There’s a complexity to what Mexican art looks like.” The art on display at NCMA through January 19 is just a glimpse into the collection amassed over decades, says Dasal. “Even after the death of Jacques and Natasha, the collection is still growing, and the Gelmans set up their collection so it will grow in perpetuity.” There will also be a showcase of reproduced garments inspired by Kahlo, who developed a very distinct sense of style and identity as she evolved as an artist. “In the past decade, Frida Kahlo has become not only an artistic icon, but an icon of style as she formed her personal look,” says Dasal. “These garments, also provided by the Gelman collection, are a really interesting way to expand on that idea and interest.” —Catherine Currin