Explorer Diaries: Mexico City
We’re all about adventure and exploration here at TFO and whilst we can’t always visit everywhere we’d like to go, all the time, TFO has some wonderful friends from around the world who do quite a lot of globetrotting and love recommending all the best bits about the places they’ve been.
Today, we have Gabriele, who is travelling through Mexico and is here to share the delights of Mexico City with the TFO fam. Stay tuned for more from Gabriele as she tours the country on a journey of discovery.
Take it away, Gabriele!
FROM GABRIELE -
Just as Verona was home for Romeo and Juliet’s love story, Mexico City hosted the incredible story of two life partners in love and in art: Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera - the difference being that the latter were two non-fictional characters. Both of them were equally talented painters and two of the most influential artists of the 20th century. As an art history lover, I started my visit to Mexico City exploring three key stops on the Kahlo-Rivera trail.
The Diego Rivera Mural Museum
The Diego Rivera Mural Museum is a one-painting museum in the city centre, where I saw Diego’s mural, “Dream of Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park” (painted in 1947).
It is a breathtaking masterpiece with an incredible amount of detail, telling the history of Mexico through more than 75 historical figure portraits. In the centre of the artwork one cannot miss “La Calavera Catrina” – a Mexican symbol of death.
In the painting, Diego’s wife, Frida, is portrayed as a mother, gently resting one hand on younger Diego’s shoulder, and holding a yin-yang symbol in the other.
In one of the drafts for his mural, I was surprised to see that Diego purposely left Frida off the painting; upon further research, I discovered this was because they were having an argument that day – their 25 year long marriage was riddled with many emotional fights.
Frida Kahlo’s House
My second stop is Frida Kahlo’s House, located in the Coyoacán borough of Mexico City.
If I had only known that this is now one of the most visited tourist sites in Mexico, I would have bought my tickets online to avoid the two-hour queue. Today, Frida is an icon for art lovers, feminists, the LGBTQ community, and fashionistas across the world – all of them wishing to get a glimpse into her life.
As I wandered through the rooms, each of them helps to put together a complex image of Frida; a colourful kitchen and dining room where the couple hosted prominent guests, a studio where one can find the mirror Frida used for self-portraits, as well as a huge poster analysing the development of the human embryo. Finally, on a dressing table in a bedroom, Frida’s ashes are deposited in a toad urn, a love symbol referencing Diego.
While Diego would paint what he saw with his eyes, Frida would put into her paintings what she felt in her heart. Frida was wild, passionate, warm, and at the same time, an incredibly fragile woman. At the age of 18, she suffered a tragic accident that left her in severe pain for most of her life and contributed to her multiple miscarriages. Frida did not talk about her miseries - she was cheerful and fun, reserving her suffering for her work. In self-portraits, she represented her disabilities, cultural heritage, political views, and her relationship with Diego.
While at her studio, I overheard some people saying that her self-portraits are evidence of her self-obsession. I see her differently – a lonely woman, unsatisfied with her boyish face, distracting the viewer from her legs by covering them with long skirts, and finally, a talented artist overshadowed by her husband.
Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Studio Museum
The third stop is Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo’s Studio Museum designed by the couple’s architect and friend, Juan O'Gorman, in 1931. It is an incredibly modern building - two separate houses joined by a foot bridge on the rooftop – one for Frida and one for Diego. The architectural structure of the building perfectly illustrates their relationship; both of them were prominent figures in their own rights, but their partnership is what made them a legendary Mexican couple.
Diego and Frida were as colorful and dynamic as Mexico City’s streets and the people that occupy them. Both artists were full of life, adored, and hated, but most importantly, could not live without each other.
Diego Rivera Mural Museum (Museo Mural Diego Rivera)
Balderas 202, Colonia Centro, Centro, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX
The Frida Kahlo House Museum, “The Blue House” (Casa Museo Frida Kahlo “Casa Azul”)
Calle Londres # 247, Colonia Del Carmen, Delegación Coyoacán, C.P. 04100, Mexico City
Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Studio Museum (Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo)
Avenida Diego Rivera #2, Col. San Angel Inn, Del. Álvaro Obregón, México, D.F.