Is Frida Kahlo a Great Artist?
Updated: Dec 7, 2021
What makes an artist great?
I was scrolling through google recently an article title leaped out at me: "Why Frida Kahlo Still Isn’t a Great Woman Artist".
I didn't even think this was a matter of debate, whether Frida Kahlo was a great artist, let alone a great woman artist.
Falling for the click bait, I read through the article and the criteria that the writer, Hall W. Rockefeller, used was whether or not the artwork of Frida Kahlo is a good monetary investment. Another criteria that Ms Rockefeller uses was whether or not the art of Frida Kahlo has appeared on a variety of merchandise. There, at least, Frida Kahlo qualifies.
I skimmed the rest of the article with a growing sense of frustration. The impact of an artist may never bear a correlation to the financial value of the artwork. If you haven't watched Adam Ruins Everything expose on why the Fine Art Market is a Scam, I highly recommend it.
I suspect that socialist Frida Kahlo would not care whether she'd joined the fine art (money laundering) community. She might well not be particularly thrilled that her likeness and name is being used to sell cheap merch and be branded by a tequila company.
I found little of value in that article outside of another window into how corrupt the fine art world has become.
Frida Kahlo was a great artist, not merely a great woman artist. Her value lies not in her resell value but in her impact on the world.
The story of her journey as an artist is moving, heartbreaking and almost unbelievable. She suffered from polio as a small child and aspired to become a doctor because she wanted to create positive change in the world. A horrific trolley accident left her bedridden for months. She took to art to pass the time and her style and skill evolved over years and decades. She suffered through a bad marriage, miscarriages and dozens of painful surgeries, all the while, continuing to paint.
She's inspired countless aspiring female artists (raises hand here). She represents the often overlooked, vibrant Mexican culture in all its rich diversity. She wears the garb of the "Other" and challenges the comfortable world of the patriarchal elite. No wonder they aren't inclined to spend the real big money on her work. She created in direct opposition to everything they represent, but her impact on art, artists, and women everywhere is immeasurable.
Buy her likeness on a t-shirt if she inspires you. Buy a canvas from a local artist if the work makes you think, amuses you or if you just like it.
Art was never meant to be about laundering money or selecting a handful of artists to raise above all the rest. Art matters because of how it impacts you and your perspective. Art matters if it brings you joy or happiness. Art matters because you like it, you enjoy it, and you want it to hang above your sofa where you can admire it each and every day.