A self-portrait by the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo—Diego y yo (Diego and I), 1949—has gone on show at Sotheby’s in London before going under the hammer at its Modern evening sale 16 November in New York with an estimate in excess of $30m.
Simon Stock, senior specialist, Impressionist & Modern Art, Europe and Asia at Sotheby’s, points out that Diego y yo last previously sold at Sotheby’s in 1990, fetching $1.4m. “The demand and appreciation for Kahlo’s work has since been remarkable,” he says. “Works have also traded privately for far in excess of $30m.” Sotheby’s adds in a statement that “Diego y yo is poised to not only set a new auction record for the artist but also become the most valuable Latin American work ever sold at auction.”
Indeed, the market for the late artist is gaining rapid traction. Late last year the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, which is under construction in Los Angeles, bought one of Kahlo's celebrated self-portraits, Self-Portrait Dedicated to Dr Eloesser (1940). Meanwhile, in August, the curator and collector Kenny Schachter reported on Artnet News that another Kahlo self-portrait, Me and My Parrot (1941), sold via Christie’s in a private transaction for more than $130m to an Asian collector.
Diego y yo comes from a private New York collection, which acquired the work around 1995, and has passed down from there. The so-called “bust” self-portraits form an important part of the Kahlo canon with the most famous examples dating from the 1940s. Eleven bust self-portraits remain in private hands outside Mexico including the work consigned to sale.
The work may also be considered a double portrait as a small image of Diego Rivera, Kahlo’s lover, can be seen on her forehead. The painting was made in the wake of Rivera’s affair with María Félix, a friend of Kahlo’s; the dishevelled hair and crystalline tears reflect her subsequent devastation. The painting is on view at Sotheby's London until 25 October.