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Exhibition: Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism (Story)

Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection

October 26, 2019 – January 19, 2020
East Building, Meymandi Exhibition Gallery

Experience the lives, loves, and influence of two art icons of the 20th century. Few artists have captured the public’s imagination with the force of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1907–54) and her husband, the Mexican painter and muralist Diego Rivera (1886–1957). The myths that surrounded them in their lifetime arose not only from their significant bodies of work, but also from their friendships (and conflicts) with leading political figures and their passionate, tempestuous personal relationships.

Kahlo and Rivera’s works are varied in scope and inspiration: she is best-known for her self-portraits, while he worked as a large-scale muralist in Mexico and the United States. Kahlo’s work is deeply personal, often depicting her own dreams, painful personal experiences, and affinity with Mexican culture, while Rivera’s pursues larger looks at history and cultural revolution. Both artists forged the way for Mexican art as a significant element of the 20th century and beyond. Similarly important is the legacy of Jacques and Natasha Gelman. The Gelmans became Mexican citizens in 1942 and began amassing Mexican art, sustaining a growing collection of Mexican modernists, like their close friends Kahlo and Rivera, as well as Rufino Tamayo, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and others.

Tickets on sale September 3 for Members and September 17 for Nonmembers. For information about purchasing tickets and general programs, visit NCMA’s website. For information on making connections through this exhibition to the classroom, explore the resources and programs on NCMALearn. 

Exhibition Big Idea

The art of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera has been instrumental in gaining recognition for Mexican art in the 20th century.

Exhibition Outcomes

  1. Visitors will learn that Frida’s art is deeply personal, often depicting her own dreams, painful personal experiences, and affinity with Mexican culture.
  2. Visitors will learn that the tumultuous relationship between Frida and Diego impacted each other’s life and art.
  3. Visitors will learn that Diego Rivera was the leading muralist of his time and his art elevated the status of Mexican art worldwide.
  4. Visitors will learn that Frida and Diego incorporated elements of traditional Mexican culture into their art, personas, and lives. Many in contemporary Latinx society value Frida and Diego as symbols of cultural and national pride.
  5. Visitors will learn the main characteristics of Mexican modernism including how artists drew inspiration from European art, Mexican folk art and culture.
  6. Visitors will learn that Frida is a pop culture and feminist icon today, but her work was not as well known or appreciated during her lifetime.
  7. Visitors will learn that Frida and Diego’s home, Casa Azul, was both an extension of their cultural identity and attracted a circle of artists, writers, and politicians who shared their political beliefs.
  8. Visitors will learn that collectors Jacques and Natasha Gelman were friends with Frida, Diego, and other Mexican artists and helped elevate the status of Mexican modernists in the international art world.

Student Group Tours for Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism

FREE guided tour and admission available for groups of 10–40 K–college students with their instructor. One adult chaperon per 10 students is required and receives free admission. Regular Adult admission rate applies to other chaperons. Recommended times for student group tours are 10:15 am and 11:15 am.

Choose from two themes:

Frida, Diego, and Friends
Explore the world of Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and other Mexican artists working in the first half of the 20th century. Learn how these artists depicted each other and the cultures that influenced them through photography, painting, and drawing. Recommended for 3rd–8th graders.

Frida, Diego, and Mexican Identity(ies) in Art
How did Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and other Mexican artists influence modernist art of the early 20th century? See how artists reflected and promoted varied Mexican cultures through their work. Recommended for 6th–12th graders.

Tour and Studio for Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism

Available for groups of 25–30 students, 3rd−12th grade. This is a unique two-hour program that includes a docent-led tour of Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism followed by an art workshop exploring themes and techniques relating to the exhibition. $25 per program, including free admission to the exhibition. Either 10:15 am to 12:15 pm or 11:15 am to 1:15 pm on November 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, Dec 3, 4, 10, or 11. Call Jen Coon at (919) 664-6820 for more information or to reserve.

Youth Group Tours for Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism

FREE tours available for youth groups of 10 to 40 including chaperons. Regular admission rates apply to all youth and adult chaperons. Schedule online.

Self-Guided Group Visits

As we prioritize guided tours for student groups, self-guided reservations will be accommodated as gallery circumstances and ticket availability allow. Reservations may be made from 10 days to 4 weeks in advance. Schedule online. For more information call Jen Coon at (919) 664-6820.

Virtual Tours for Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism

Harness the power of technology to bring your students to the NCMA through a FREE, interactive virtual field trip. Students participate from the comfort of your classroom. Not sure if you have the technology you need? Let us know—we can help. We offer virtual tours for Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism, as well as other thematic options, for grades K–12. For details or to request a tour, visit here or or email