Now in its third year “Belgravia in Bloom” is a colourful side show attached to the Chelsea Flower Show;50 plus retailers have joined together to celebrate the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) to herald the opening of her show “Making Her Self Up”. The natural world was an inspiration to Kahlo and her paintings reflect her passion for flora and fauna, most of her fifty-five self-portraits feature her wearing fresh flower hair ornaments and Mexican peasant dress. Classed as a surrealist, her paintings show nature, tradition, history, folklore, suffering and pain.Kahlo was born with Spina Bifida which affected the development of her spine and legs, she suffered from Polio at six years old and at eighteen she was involved in a tram accident leaving her spine and pelvis broken and her abdomen injured, all this agony is also manifested in her paintings.
This reporter visited Kahlo’s home in Coyoácan, Mexico City, in 1982 known as Casa Azul (The Blue House) where her garden was also a famous work of art; here Kahlo combined tropical, herbaceous and succulent plants together, the New York Botanical Garden have twice exhibited retrospective creations of Kahlo’s garden.The immortality of Frida Kahlo’s passionate spirit is in her art, she grew up surrounded by revolution and adopted socialist ideals eventually joining the Mexican Communist Party. Her private life was as colourful as her art, Kahlo married the Mexican fresco muralist Diego Rivera (twice), befriended the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky and the French poet Andre Breton, controversially Kahlo and Rivera were to become Stalinists; now London’s most prestigious landlord Grosvenor have chosen to sponsor the forthcoming Kahlo show of her personal belongings at the V&A Museum, opening on 16th June.
Fridamania is contagious and has become commercialised; hairdressers are reproducing her imaginative hairstyles, decorators and textile designers are displaying jungley leaf, parrot and monkey prints, florists are creating extravagant floral facades in windows and doorways of hotels and shops all around the Borough of Belgravia, Rococo Chocolates have a hand painted image of Frida on their window, the Hari Hotel designed a striking 3D image of the artist amongst flowers and animals. Fashion boutiques get as near as they can to demonstrate Kahlo’s extravagant dramatic wardrobe where colour, jewels, local handicraft and print contrast, Donna Ida the denim genius have designed a T-shirt in homage to Frida.A pop-up installation and exhibition named Frida’s Parlour depicts one room of the Blue House in Ebury Street, restaurants are serving Mexican tapas and pisco cocktails. The Lanesborough Hotel are offering an afternoon tea inspired by Kahlo, their Michelin-starred chef Gabriel Le Quang has combined agave, tequila and dulce de leche tastes into pastries, cakes and tarts served with tea, champagne or Margueritas.
Kahlo’s last painting of watermelon slices was called “Viva La Vida” Live the Life, sixty four years later Kahlo’s life and work are inspiring an afterlife in London.