I've always wanted to visit Frida Kahlo's house, and it was even better than I expected. But the crowds were insane. Luckily my Airbnb host tipped me off that I should buy advance tickets online, and after searching I found that it's a separate website, where I was able to buy a ticket a few hours in advance to skip the line. And the line went all the way down the block. boletosfridakahlo.org
There's a small gallery of her works, an interesting collection spanning her life. I was particularly moved by an early portrait she made in 1927, though I wasn't quite sure why. Something in the eyes. I looked up the subject, Agustin Olmedo, and only learned that he was a friend and a member of the group known as "Cachuchas". I also found an interesting story behind the damaged part of the painting in the center of his jacket. The damage was inflicted by Kahlo herself when she learned that Agustin was badmouthing her by saying that "she isn't worth not even a cent". Classic.
I especially enjoyed seeing unfinished works, as a glimpse into her process.
There was also something so stirring about seeing her home, personal objects and work spaces.
The house was amazing, especially the beautiful courtyard. It's a walled-off haven from the busy streets surrounding it, a private vibrant jungle inside the city.
Despite her life-long health issues, Frida apparently got a lot of action. She began a 10 year affair with Nickolas Muray (the photographer who took the portrait above) just a year after her marriage to Diego Rivera. Supposedly she also had an affair with Georgia O'Keefe, as this letter she wrote to her in 1933 suggests. I thought it was a charming letter, full of genuine sincerity.
Was wonderful to hear your voice again. Every day since I called you and many times before months ago I wanted to write you a letter. I wrote you many, but every one seemed more stupid and empty and I torn them up. I can't write in English all that I would like to tell, especially to you. I am sending this one because I promised it to you. I felt terrible when Sybil Brown told me that you were sick but I still don't know what is the matter with you. Please Georgia dear if you can't write, ask Stieglitz to do it for you and let me know how are you feeling will you ? I'll be in Detroit two more weeks. I would like to tell you every thing that happened to me since the last time we saw each other, but most of them are sad and you mustn't know sad things now. After all I shouldn't complain because I have been happy in many ways though. Diego is good to me, and you can't imagine how happy he has been working on the frescoes here. I have been painting a little too and that helped. I thought of you a lot and never forget your wonderful hands and the color of your eyes. I will see you soon. I am sure that in New York I will be much happier. If you still in the hospital when I come back I will bring you flowers, but it is so difficult to find the ones I would like for you. I would be so happy if you could write me even two words. I like you very much Georgia.
Diego Rivera also stipulated in his will that sections of the Casa Azul remain closed off from the museum for 50 years past his death, and they were filled with their personal items. So about 10 years ago these items were finally uncovered. There's a temporary exhibit at the museum (though I think it's been up for years) of Frida's clothing, corsets, jewelry, shoes, photos, plus a selection of pieces by major fashion designers that were inspired by her style. One of her legs was shorter and thinner due to polio as a child, which is why she usually wore long skirts. It's speculated that it's also why she wore so much jewelry, colorful tops and elaborate hairstyles, to draw the eyes up and away from her legs. But I can't believe she was hiding these fabulous boots under long skirts! I'm really longing for a pair of boots like these.
Coyoacan, where the Casa Azul is located, is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Mexico City. South of the museum, it's an easy walk to the lovely Plaza Hildago, which has many restaurant options. I went to Los Danzantes, which I highly recommend. I made a poor ordering choice though, getting a dish featuring chaupilines (AKA grasshoppers). They were listed as the last ingredient, so I wishfully thought that it would be just a sprinkling of them, and I could just give them a try. But there were at least 100 little crickets piled up on this tostada, and I could only stomach a small amount. Years ago I somehow ended up rescuing a beaded dragon (long story), and had to regularly buy crickets to feed it. I just kept thinking of the horrible smell of that cricket container, and it wasn't appetizing. I wish I could go back to that restaurant and have a do-over! The artwork inside was amazing as well.