WEST PALM BEACH, FL – Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera – tormented lovers and heavyweight Mexican entertainers – meet again. This time in a museum here in West Palm Beach.
Their paintings, collection of photographs, and a replica of Rivera’s mural are part of a pair of Latin American art galleries that are creating an elegant change of pace from the mostly contemporary work at Art Basel Miami Beach this year.
Frida and Diego V Show Norton Museum of Art It captures a clip of the modernist movement in Mexico from the 1920s through the 1950s, which the museum’s director, Gislan Domirez, said added another dimension to Norton’s permanent collection of American and European Modernism.
Down the coast a little, the Boca Raton Museum of Art Presenting Machu Picchu and the Golden Empires of Peru, an impressive collection of carved gold and silver trinkets, jugs and earthenware bowls, many dating back thousands of years.
Andrew James HamiltonA curator at the Art Institute of Chicago, said 192 works were among the finest examples of pre-Columbian art. “This is a crème de la crème,” he said in an interview. “These are the kinds of works that museums around the world are constantly trying to get on loan.”
The exhibition is organized as a theatrical production with dramatic lighting, shimmering crystal glass display cases and a virtual reality feature that takes you on a magic carpet tour of the ruins of a roofless Inca castle.
West Palm Beach and Boca Raton are just a short drive from Art Basel’s Miami Beach headquarters, and there are plenty of things to do on an overnight visit.
Exhibits are guided tours. Frida and Diego recently had a show in Denver. The pre-Columbian fair, in its first iteration in Boca Raton, heads to Europe in the spring.
The intensity of the Frida and Diego exhibit shocks you when you enter the Norton booth. They stare from a giant floor-to-ceiling hit of a slightly grainy 1934 black and white photo, almost, but not quite, cheek to cheek, Frida on the outside, Diego fixed on her with those irresistible eyes.
She admired his illusion and praised him as a muralist and painter, at 20 years old. He saw her raw talent. They were smoldering, politically charged, seeing Mexico as better at communism. They said to each other Marriage will not surround them.
But it was tough. Sleep with her sister. She slept with their friend Leon Trotsky. They divorced, married, and clung to each other until Frida died in 1954 at the age of 47. Three years later, he is gone.
She painted stark pictures, many of them. I drew it. drawn. Put it in a mural, and distributed guns. His light hand softened the harsh country life with sprays of calla lilies and sunflowers.
Norton displays 29 of their paintings and three of their lithographs, 20 paintings by contemporaries and 90 photographs, including two by Rivera, five by Nicholas Murray, one of her lovers, and nine by her father, Guillermo Kahlo, a professional photographer. Two photos show her in an open casket at her funeral in Mexico City.
In a self-portrait called Diego in Bali Kahlo planted a small portrait of Rivera on her forehead and framed her face in a narrow oval of pleated white lace covered with long, thin, jagged, wavy nervous lines suggesting, perhaps, a cracked mirror or tangled nerves.
“There’s a lot of energy there,” said Eileen Roberts, a senior curator at Norton.
The pre-Columbian gallery in Boca Raton opened with the oldest work, an earthenware jug representing the head of an esteemed shaman. It was excavated, like all other pieces, from a burial mound. It is from the Cupisnique culture, 2000 to 3000 years ago.
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Guides in bright yellow people begin their journey through the museum with a four-minute video, giving historical context. A side curtain rises and the gallery opens.
Dim colored spotlights create a mysterious feel that focuses attention on the artifacts, and they are placed individually and in small groups in tall, angled, custom-built glass cases. In the packages of micro-LED floodlights built in, out of sight, things glisten in the top of the cans.
An astonishing set of golden funerary decorations on a skeleton manikin will make you stop: Big chest cover burntGlossy crown and sparkling round discs for the ears.
“You feel the power of it all,” said Michelle Foer, a director of a tech startup from West Palm Beach, after spending part of an afternoon absorbing pre-Columbian art.
Galleries are a natural mix, one to two. Both weigh heavily on digital advertising. Nikos Sutterhaus, a robotics expert in Fort Lauderdale, received an email promoting the Machu Picchu show while making his way through the Frida and Diego show. Immediately, he and his wife, Alexandra Carava, decided to head to Boca Raton.
At the show in West Palm Beach, Kahlo is the big draw. “Diego is part of the story,” said Jay Stallman, a musician from Stewart, North West Palm Beach, as he wrapped up his visit to the gallery. “But I think Frida is really the headline.”