Close to 70 years after her death in 1954 at just 47, Frida Kahlo remains one of the world’s most famous and beloved artists.
But is it possible her spirit still walks the earth?
“A docent told me [a Frida Kahlo ghost] is rumored to wander the rooms of the Museo Frida Khalo in Mexico City,” author Arianna Davis writes in What Would Frida Do? A Guide to Living Boldly, a new life-advice book that channels the artist’s fearless spirit, boundless creativity, and tireless embrace of self-expression.
“Curators like to say that, sometimes, Frida returns to her old home after dark; her shape has been seen filling out corsets and skirts as if she’s borrowing her old clothing for the night,” Davis writes.
Davis isn’t the only one who has heard such tales.
In an undated article published by the California website Southbay, Marlene Strang writes that “the museum’s director confided to us that on occasion, she has heard the sound of labored footsteps emanating from Frida’s office in the basement when no one was there. She also mentioned witnessing supernatural phenomena, such as the appearance of wet footprints on the grounds seemingly out of nowhere, but was quick to point out that her sense of Frida’s presence is benign, playful, and ever welcome.”
(An even spookier story has been told about Kahlo: legend has it that while her corpse was being cremated, Kahlo sat up from the heat and appeared to smile as her hair caught fire, creating a corona of flames around her head.)
Eager to confirm accounts of spectral activity at Casa Azul, Artnet News emailed the museum and asked if we could talk with director Hilda Trujillo Soto about whether she’d had any ghostly encounters. A publicist rebuffed us, saying: “the Frida Kahlo Museum as an institution can’t make that kind of statement.”
Catherine Morris, the senior curator for the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, which last year hosted “Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving,” a blockbuster exhibition of the artist’s personal effects, was more game.
“I just talked to Lisa Small, my Kahlo partner-in-crime at the museum, and neither of us have heard of a Kahlo ghost,” Morris told Artnet News in an email. “We wish we had!”
“While she didn’t visit us in Brooklyn while her show was up, we’d like to let her know she has an open invitation,” Morris added. “I expect if she does decide to stop by, we’ll know because the scent of Marlboros and Shalimar will proceed her.” (Kahlo was quite the smoker, and Shalimar was her favorite perfume.)
A publicist at the de Young Museum was also disappointed to report that there have no been reports of haunted happenings at the exhibition during its current run in San Francisco—even during the six months the show was entirely closed to visitors.
“Her objects are very much charged with the essence of her persona,” exhibition curator Circe Henestrosa wrote in an email to Artnet News. “I am not sure if I would say her ghost is still lingering around, but the essence of who she was as a woman and as an artist is very much still here with us.”
Because her art was so deeply personal, it’s no wonder that art lovers feel so closely connected to Kahlo that they’d welcome the chance to encounter her ghost. One Kahlo expert even had some advice as to how you might do just that.
“Frida is everywhere,” dealer Mary-Anne Martin, who specializes in Mexican and Latin American art, told Artnet News in an email. “If you want to see her on the Day of the Dead you should leave her some good tequila. She’ll like that.”
“Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving” is on view at the de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco, California, September 25, 2020–February 7, 2021.
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