Kahlo Collection: A Trove Of Fakes?

Frida Kahlo's estate has filed a claim regarding 1,200 items, including taxidermy animals, drawings, and a diary, that were featured in the book Finding Frida Kahlo. Kahlo's estate says the objects are all forgeries; many art historians agree.

Finding Frida Kahlo is scheduled for publication on November 1st, the New York Times reports. But Mexican prosecutors are trying to halt publication, saying it will be damaging to Kahlo's legacy to have the false materials published. They claim that these items may be interesting, but they were never Kahlo's possessions or creations.

Art and antiques dealer Carlos Noyola, who owns the collection, admits it has yet to be 100% authenticated. This fact is mentioned by the Princeton Architectural Press, but ultimately rejected by the Finding Frida Kahlo author Barbara Levine. She writes: "This archive in five cases offers us an intact album of Frida Kahlo's world, and how she imagined her place in it." Noyola said he acquired the works from a woodcarver who had made frames for Kahlo. He says Kahlo trusted the woodcarver so much that she gave him several suitcases of her possessions. Noyola later had the works authenticated by Diego Rivera's granddaughter and three artists who had worked with Kahlo during the 1940s.

Levine admits that the collection "hovers between fact and fiction." Although Levine may not see a problem with the collection's ambiguous status, Hilda Trujillo Soto, director of the Frida Kahlo Museum, says that the book is full of forgeries. "The publisher is taking a cynical attitude. They are disseminating Frida Kahlo fakes," she said. Professor James Oles agrees: "After verifying the documentation in this deluxe book published in the United States, we as a group of 15 people, who have all worked on exhibitions, books and articles of Frida Kahlo's works, have come to the conclusion that these documents are fake," he wrote.

The group of Kahlo scholars claim that the handwriting is not Kahlo's, the context is all off, and her signature is wrong. Yet none of the 15 have been to Mexico to visit the objects in person. A spokesperson for the Princeton Architectural Press admits that they "just fell in love with the material" and did not take the steps to authenticate the items themselves. "We could have figured out how to call, and we didn't," says Jennifer Thompson. But, as Levine rather optimistically points out, the items in question, which include recipes, explicit drawings, and everything in between, are fascinating pieces regardless of whether Kahlo actually wrote them or not. "Would this material be interesting if it wasn't Frida Kahlo?" she added. "Well, yes it is."

Works Attributed To The Mexican Artist Frida Kahlo 'Are Fakes' [Times]
Kahlo Trove: Fact Or Fakery? [New York Times]
Frida Kahlo 'Fakes' Investigated [BBC]