Sal Santiago writes about travel, minimalism, food, philosophy, and living an alternative lifestyle.
It was a beautiful sunny November day, and I was thrilled. Having been a fan and loving her artwork for many years, I was going to visit La Casa Azul, Frida Kahlo's house in Mexico City. I hailed a taxi from La Condesa, the neighborhood where I was staying in an Airbnb for a week, to Frida's former neighborhood in Colonia del Carmen, Coyoacán.
Getting out of the taxi, I was greeted by the beautiful blue house, and the lively scene outside. It is said the cobalt-blue color of the house reflected Frida's love for the indigenous art of Mexico. Vendors with carts built on 3-wheel bicycles, and shaded under large umbrellas, sold fruit, juices, and other snacks. A line at the entrance gate stretched half way down the block. But it moved quickly, and in about 10 minutes I entered the museum.
The house was turned into a museum in 1957, when Diego Rivera, Mexican artist and her husband for a few years, donated the home and contents as an honor to Frida's life and work. The house was Frida's family home throughout her life, and the house where she spent her final days, and the place where she died. The rooms are preserved as they were lived in, with the furnishings of the 1950s. Frida's personal collection of pre-Hispanic and Mexican folk art is featured, a few of her lesser-known paintings, and many photographs, letters, and mementos. Several of the rooms are in the classic Mexican style, with bright yellow and blue tiles and walls. It has a bright and open feel.
My favorite rooms were the kitchen, decorated with earthenware pots, handcrafted and from various places in Mexico. Also, the small studio where she worked, with a variety of brushes and a few easels. Large windows lined the walls of the studio, allowing natural light to flow in. It was especially fascinating to see the place where she worked, creating many of her famous paintings.
The huge garden courtyard, filled with flowers, tropical plants and trees. There is a large pyramid, a fountain, and a reflection pool in this area as well. After viewing the small bedroom, also the place of Frida's death, the courtyard seemed a happy place. I could imagine her spending time there, relaxing and restoring her energies in this beautiful and peaceful place. There is also a room displaying Day of the Dead art, with several laughing skeletons seated around a dinner table.
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A few interesting things I learned: Frida taught for several years at the nearby Escuela de Pintura y Escultura de La Esmeralda, but due to poor health and painful spinal issues at this time, the classes were mostly held at the Blue House. Also, there were several periods in her life when she went several years at a time without painting. Though we may imagine a famous artist as continually working throughout their life, things happen and it is not always possible. Just as in all of our lives, there are periods where life is too difficult, poor physical health, a low state of mental health, and these things can take us away from our callings. Sometimes those periods away are very fruitful, and when the artist returns to their work, it is with renewed ideas and passion. One takeaway message: don't beat yourself up too much, even the greatest artists took time off.
The museum features a small gift shop as well. It is one of the most visited museums in all of Mexico City. The house gives a lot of insight into the influences that helped shape Frida's art. To see the rooms where she lived and worked, the feeling of the space she inhabited, and the neighborhood she lived in, helps us to understand a little better this unique and great artist. This is a place you could easily spend a few hours, examining the displays, and reading about the history.
I wandered the rooms, took photographs, and enjoyed meandering through the gardens. I took a few more photos outside of the house, and tried to imagine what the neighborhood looked like during the period of time she lived there. Evening was falling now, and it was time to head back to my neighborhood near El Chapultepec Park.
If you are a fan of Frida's art, an admirer of her vision and the way she transformed her pain into great art, then perhaps you can put it on your list as a must-visit place as well. She gifted the world with her wonderful art and story of personal perseverance in the face of tragedy. The museum is an amazing tribute to her life and work.