Kahlo and Rivera art on show at SA gallery

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They were both unfaithful, they married each other twice, and for a time they lived in two separate houses linked by a bridge.

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera had an unconventional relationship, and they became one of the most famous and influential artistic couples in the world.

Their relationship and their art is the subject of a major new show at the Art Gallery of South Australia.

Frida and Diego: Love and Revolution will go on display next winter, with 150 artworks by the couple and their Mexican contemporaries.

"It's human nature for us to want to know about other people's relationships, I think that's just fundamentally who we are as people, but their relationship is played out through their art as well," curator Tansy Curtin told AAP.

The couple were at the forefront of Mexico's post-revolutionary avant-garde from the 1920s till the 1950s, and both painters were known for bringing together international modernism with native Mexican styles.

Rivera was famous during the artists' lifetimes for his large murals on revolutionary themes: his Man at the Crossroads fresco at New York's Rockefeller Center was famously destroyed because it featured Lenin.

But in the years since Kahlo died, aged 47, in 1954, her far more personal work has seen her become a political, feminist and queer icon.

"She's a woman of colour, a person with a disability and she's got this really interesting love life, lots of relationships with men and women, so she's kind of really fascinating to us," Ms Curtin said.

One of the best-known images in the exhibition will likely be Diego on My Mind, Kahlo's bold 1943 self portrait that includes an image of Rivera on her forehead.

Although a contemporary audience might cringe at some of the things that happened in their tumultuous relationship, according to Ms Curtin, Rivera was a great promoter of Kahlo's work, and did much to ensure her legacy was remembered.

The gallery's 2023 program also features a major Andy Warhol exhibition and the first-ever survey show of renowned Western Aranda painter Vincent Namatjira.

Frida and Diego: Love and Revolution will run at the Art Gallery of South Australia from June 24 to September 17, 2023.


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