Ever since the New York Botanical Garden installed its Frida Khalo: Art, Garden, Life show, it’s been a nonstop party and feast for the eyes, ears, and tastebuds.
Not sufficient to import fourteen of Frida’s rarely seen paintings for the formal gallery upstairs in its library building, the creative NYBG team has made environments, commissioned artists, designed apps, booked acts, hosted special events, transformed the conservatory, made a wall of cactus, redesigned menus, and even brought in a taco truck to give everyone an immersion into her sophisticated Mexican lifestyle.
This blockbuster sensory experience is in its last week, going out with a bang with a Dia de los Muertos theme as this traditional Mexican holiday collides with our own Halloween. Sugar skulls and whimsical skeletons are taking over Frida and Diego’s pyramid that serves as the centerpiece of the garden portion of the show.
It’s an appropriate mix, given Frida’s own proclivity to merge the everyday with the surreal in her own works. The Library has an exquisite collection of her self-portrait and still life paintings, featuring flowers, animals, and deep-rooted Mexican myth and culture.
Downstairs in the Britton Rotunda, there’s a stunning installation of The Two Fridas by artist Humberto Spindola – side-by-side mannequins wearing tissue-paper dresses in colors that Frida sported, but with the surreal outer heart that she painted more than once. Visitors approach as if it were a shrine with special powers.
The Haupt Conservatory serves up a riot of color with floating blue containers of vivid flowers, the dynamic blue of the recreated Casa Azul, where she lived, pops of the types of flowers with which she adorned her table and sills, and the intensely painted Mexican-style pyramid in the center of it all.
The sensations are so bright that it’s easy to miss the recreation of Frida’s studio, tucked away in the trees to the left of the main event – brushes, paints, paint sticks, and other tools.
Outdoors, the curators have succulents jammed into every piece of oversize Mexican pottery near a “wall” of cactus, replicating a natural fence that Diego had outside his studio for decades.
The “Life” portion of the show’s title is represented by the generous schedule of music, performances, films, and events that the NYBG has featured throughout the show’s six-month run. Dance companies, all-female mariachi bands, chefs, and authors provide sensuous infusions of movement, wit, gaiety, and sophistication that Frida embodied her entire life. Flashing red skirts, exciting beats, fast footwork, dramatic flourishes, and meaty conversation all contribute to the experience of who Frida was, how she lived, and what she loved.
Download the exhibition panel to see all the parts of Mexico City that meant so much to Frida and Diego – images of parks, gardens, markets, and historic sites, including photos of Casa Azul.
Take a look at what the NYBG team achieved:
If you have time, check out the YouTube of the all-star kick-off symposium dedicated to Frida last May.