In Paris, the Palais Galliera (formerly known as the Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris) has just opened “Frida Kahlo, Beyond Appearances.” The product of a collaboration with Mexico’s Museo Frida Kahlo, it is the latest chapter in a series of exhibitions that began in Mexico a decade ago (including a version at the V&A museum in London in 2018), exploring how the legendary Mexican artist used style to construct her identity.
It is not all floral headdresses. The show avoids clichés by focusing on private moments in Kahlo’s life at the Casa Azul, her birthplace and longtime home near Mexico City (she and her off-and-on husband, Mexican artist Diego Rivera, painted the now-famous structure bright blue—hence the name). The visual narrative continues in the U.S. and Paris, where Kahlo spent time with Surrealists including Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso, Dora Maar, Joan Miró, and André Breton, as well as with the designer Elsa Schiaparelli.
Alongside correspondence, films, photographs, and self-portraits of the artist over the years, more than 200 pieces are on display in “Frida Kahlo, Beyond Appearances.” These range from the traditional dresses and (woven shawls) that Kahlo wore both to express her Mexican heritage and to conceal her polio-afflicted right leg, to the prosthetics and medical corsets that became her canvases while she was convalescing from an accident that nearly took her life at age 18.
Also on view are the 1930s-era necklaces that the artist assembled from pre-Columbian jadestones, which she was often photographed wearing while visiting “Gringoland” (as she referred to the U.S.).
In addition to Kahlo’s clothing and accessories—many of which are stained with paint and nicotine—you’ll find her used makeup, nail polish, and perfume (Chanel No. 5). There’s also an exhibition-within-the-exhibition (through December 31, 2022), exploring the artist’s impact on contemporary fashion, featuring ensembles by designers including Maria Grazia Chiuri, Jean Paul Gaultier, Rei Kawakubo, Karl Lagerfeld, Alexander McQueen, Riccardo Tisci, and Yohji Yamamoto.
Below, see a selection of the items on display in “Frida Kahlo, Beyond Appearances.”