Frida Kahlo Self-Portrait Sells for Record Price of $34.9 Million


The legendary Mexican artist Frida Kahlo has set a new art-world record. One of her many self-portraits, a 1949 painting titled Diego y Yo, fetched $34.9 million at a Sotheby’s auction in New York City on November 16, making it the most expensive work sold by a Latin American artist at auction. The buyer was Eduardo F. Costantini, an art collector and the founder of the Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires, also known as Malba. 

The painting on auction.

Photo: Julian Cassady Photography / Courtesy of Sotheby’s

The previous record was held by Diego Rivera, Kahlo’s husband, with whom she had a tumultuous relationship (they divorced in 1940 only to remarry the same year) and whose face (with a third eye) appears on her forehead in the painting. A prolific muralist himself, Rivera’s painting, The Rivals, which was commissioned by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. in 1931, fetched $9.76 million at a Christie’s auction in 2018. Kahlo’s own personal record was not far behind; her painting, Dos desnudos en el bosque (La tierra misma), sold for $8 million in 2016.

Kahlo’s popularity has only increased since her death in 1954, and, in the 21st century, she has become a pop culture icon, with her image appearing quite frequently on merchandise and in the media. She was openly bisexual and famously played with gender roles in some of her work, and she struggled greatly with her physical health after having polio as a child and being involved in a bus accident when she was 18. All of this contributes to her appeal and legacy.

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“Frida Kahlo’s status as a global cultural icon is indisputable, and tonight’s outstanding result further secures her place in the auction echelon she belongs, as one of the true titans of 20th-century art,” said Julian Dawes of Sotheby’s in a release about the sale. Indeed, Kahlo was in prestigious company in the auction, which also included pieces by Claude Monet, Alexander Calder, Edvard Munch, Salvador Dalí, and Pablo Picasso, among others.


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