That’s the rhetorical question the author of a new book posed to the New York Times in a fascinating — and still unfolding — story concerning Mexico’s most famous artist (not counting Kahlo’s husband, Diego Rivera).
The material Barbara Levine refers to is a trove of some 1,200 recently discovered artworks, diaries, letters, and artifacts attributed to Kahlo, which she explores in the newly published Finding Frida Kahlo. Although officials at Princeton Architectural Press say the book states clearly that authentication of the works is still an issue, according to the Times, it is not a central part of the book (let alone its thesis).
The story about the discovery has its own fairly-tale-like quality, involving an art and antiques dealer, a reclusive Mexico City lawyer, and a wood carver in the mountain town of San Miguel de Allende. The carver is said to have made frames for Kahlo, who in turn is said to have entrusted to him several trunks and boxes of her possessions. Now the circle of characters has expanded to include a grand-daughter and other relatives of Diego Rivera; a host of Kahlo scholars and art experts (self-appointed and otherwise), including artists who worked with her and Rivera; officials from Kahlo’s trust; and handwriting and chemical-analysis experts. And, naturally, more lawyers!
There’s also a criminal complaint filed in Mexico and attempts to halt the sale of the book in the U.S., not to mention a whole lot at stake, financially and otherwise. (The Walker’s presentation of Kahlo’s 2007-2008 touring retrospective was among the highest-attended exhibitions here). So stay tuned. And since everyone’s an expert, check out the Times‘ “Frida Kahlos or Frauds? slide show and judge for yourself.