Frida Kahlo by Ishiuchi Miyako @ Michael Hoppen


Frida Kahlo may have died sixty years ago but her memory lives on and her status as an icon has firmly been cemented in the history books. Her self-portraits are striking in their honesty and Kahlo’s face is one that most of us will recognise instantly. There is currently a new exhibition of photographs in London, of which Frida is the subject. However, the artist’s physical body is absent from the images.

The photographs on display, which have been taken by Japanese photographer Ishiuchi Miyako, comprise of Kahlo’s clothes that have been displayed to us against neutral backgrounds. The photographer is concerned with the passing of time and in light of this it seems apt that we are not given the physical clothes to view, as these would be more vulnerable to deterioration. The photographs seem to ensure that the contents of Kahlo’s wardrobe are preserved, ensuring that they can be appreciated by future generations.

Normally, we are used to seeing fashion exhibitions that are filled with the clothes dressed on mannequins. This was not an option for these garments as they have been hidden away inside Kahlo’s Blue House since her death on the orders of her husband Diego Rivera. Miyako’s images are the first opportunity to see inside this room.

Amongst many items of clothing are brightly coloured dresses, gloves and shoes. Kahlo’s clothes are beautiful. Most of the garments celebrate Mexican tradition. They appear to be vibrant in colour, matching her artwork and personality. However, what really strikes me is just how much pain the artist must have constantly been in. While most of us know that Kahlo suffered from both emotional and physical trauma throughout her life, it is often easy to downplay this. Miyako’s images however, display the clothes that acted as the armor that hid Kahlo’s disabilities. Amid the images we see a wooden leg and heavily structured bodices that remind us that while Kahlo was creating breathtaking paintings and creating a reputation for herself, she was also a survivor of polio and a horrific car accident.

Miyako’s images are a beautiful and honest look inside the wardrobe of one of history’s most fascinating women. The exhibition simply cannot be missed.

Frida by Ishiuchi Miyako is on display at Michael Hoppen Gallery until 13 July

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier is a London-based writer with a special interest in contemporary Middle Eastern Art. She has a BA in Art History and an MA in Contemporary Art and Art Theory of Asia and Africa from the School of Oriental and African Studies. She runs the Gallery Girl blog and also writes for After Nyne, Ibraaz and Reorient.

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