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Frida Kahlo Museum (Mexico City, Mexico)

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    • More +
      01.09.2009 00:46
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      Don't miss this if you visit Mexico

      This was one of the things I most wanted to see whilst in Mexico City, mainly after watching the film about the artist, and it didn't disappoint.

      It's easy enough to get to- only about a 25-minute ride on the metro from the centre of the city. It's more difficult to find the house itself once you've got off the metro, but then maybe that's just me, as I've never been great with directions! Also, you would think it'd be easy to spot a bright blue house on an average street, but since nearly all the houses in the area are painted a bright colour, this proves harder than you might imagine!

      Entry is very good value. An adult pays 55 pesos, which is about £2.50, but if you're student then you only pay 20 (£1)- it's quite unusual that non-national students also get a discount, but I used my student card here, so it seems to apply to foreigners too in this particular museum.

      As you pass the entrance, you follow a circuit around from one side of the house to the other, ending up back in the garden. The first section of the house is dedicated to Frida Kahlo's artwork. Although this is not the most comprehensive collection of her work in the city, it is interesting to see it in its natural environment, so to speak. The artwork is interspersed with brief biographical information about the two artists, as well as a series of quotations from Kahlo about Rivera. Most of the information is provided in English as well as Spanish, so it is easily accessible to non-Spanish speakers like myself!

      The second part of the house is set up in the way it probably would have looked when Frida and Diego lived there, and it really does look enticingly homely. Everything is very bright and typically Mexican looking, and Frida's bed is decorated with woven blankets and multi-coloured cushions, which were so cosy looking as to make me feel like moving to Mexico immediately. There are also a couple of the corsets Frida had to wear on display, which are interesting to see.

      Back outside, the garden achieves a zen-like peace and calm rarely seen outside of Japan. I spotted a hummingbird in one of the trees, and you can take a stroll around looking at some photos of the couple and their pet dog dotted along the paths. There's also a shop of slightly expensive souvenirs, as you might expect, and a well-placed café where you can buy tea, coffee and cakes and sit outside in the garden with them if you wish, which we did. Inside the garden, it is hard to believe that there is a fairly busy and noisy road just on the other side of the wall.

      This is definitely well worth a visit, although I wouldn't have thought you'd need to dedicate more than an hour or two to it, including a leisurely garden tea break. Be warned- it's not open on a Monday. You can visit Tuesday to Sunday between 10am and 6pm, but you can't take photos inside the house. Also, there are guided tours available for $350 (£17.50) but you have to book in advance for these.

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    • More +
      31.10.2008 20:30
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      Another unusual place to visit Mexico City

      Frida Kahlo (her with the monobrow) is one of Mexico's most famous citizens, and the area of Mexico City in which she lived - Coyoacán - is dotted with various houses, studios and parks named after her. The most well known and well visited of these is the Casa Azul, or the Blue House. I have been here twice and, in true random style, also taught a class on the place since one of my (UK published) EFL text books has a reading exercise on it.


      FRIDA KAHLO

      The Casa Azul is the house where Frida Kahlo was born and lived most of her life, acquiring it from her parents. She was a Mexican painter whose style was a mixture of many things - realism, surrealism, symbolism - and she, um, had a pet monkey. Married to the equally famous (at least in Mexico) muralist Diego Rivera, she died in 1954. The house was turned into a museum a few years later, following Diego's death. Diego and Frida had an odd relationship, that included various affairs (she hooked up with the Russian revolutionist Leon Trotsky who lived up the road, he slept with her sister) but they remained together for most of their lives and are "Frida and Diego" has the same kind of ring to it as "Tom and Jerry" over here, two names which always go together.

      A lot of Frida's paintings are not especially happy, and reflect the torment in her life. These and her wheelchair and one of the corsets she used to wear are on display in the museum - she had a withered leg from a spell of Polio as a child, and also broke her back in a traffic accident as a teenager. Some of the paintings are down-right odd, like the one entitled "Frida and the caesarean section" which is pretty much exactly what you'd expect from a name like that.


      GETTING THERE

      You might think it would be easy enough to find a blue house, but if you come to Coyoacán you'll see that lots of the houses here are painted very pretty and un-house-like colours, so an address is helpful. The Casa Azul is located on the corner of Londres and Allende Streets in Coyoacán . The easiest way to get there is to catch the Metro to Viveros and walk through the large park which is awash with joggers and squirrels. The house is slightly north-east of the centre, but not far at all, and it was a nice walk on a late October day when the sun was shining and the sky was as blue as the house in question.


      OUR (LATEST) VISIT

      We went on a Wednesday at around noon, and the place was reasonably busy but not too bad. It was a lot quieter than my last trip, on a Saturday afternoon, and this meant we had more chance to take in the surroundings. The house is a shocking blue colour and stands out from the other buildings on the street. Entrance is 45 pesos for general admissions but discounts are available for various groups and as a teacher I paid just 20 pesos. They are not that fussy about IDs and last time we got away with getting us all in as teachers even though we were with someone whose ID, if you'd read it, would just have said Admin for the school, not teacher. I left my backpack at the Paqueteria (bag check) and this was free. As we went in we were told, in Spanish, that photos could be taken in the grounds, but not inside the museum itself. We were also directed to start up the stairs to the left hand side.

      There are two main aspects to the museum. One is your typical museum/gallery set-up and the other is a series of rooms, preserved to show what the house was like when Frida lived there. You start in the former, and immediately notice the bright yellow floor which apparently was the original colour of the kitchen floor, designed to keep out insects. In the first room, once a living room, there are paintings, some by Frida, and some of her, and as you continue through you come across letter (mainly in Spanish but the odd one in English), newspaper articles and adverts from the time she was there.

      Continuing further on you find the display rooms, including a massive kitchen with the hugest pot I have ever seen (one I would love to cook spaghetti in), and a long yellow table. There's a study, Frida's studio (still with palette and brushes on display) and the bedrooms that belonged to her and to Diego as you go upstairs. These are all brightly decorated and quite funky, not at all the usual rooms you'd get if you were in a stately home, and very befitting of an artist's residence. The colours in the kitchen especially reminded me of children's furniture ranges from Argos or Ikea - lots of bold, primary colours, beads etc.

      The final part of the tour takes you into a small courtyard and gardens, where you can also find a shop (badly designed, so it gets crowded easily) and a small cafe. There are also some toilets that are worth a visit in themselves since the tiling in them is really pretty. At the moment the garden also houses a temporary exhibit for the Days of the Dead (1st/2nd November). The gardens are lovely with tropical plants and fountains, and a few places to sit in the sunshine too.


      TRIVIA

      On the cupboard in one of the rooms you can see the words "Frida Kahlo was born here July 7th 1910". This is a lie, since she was born on July 6th 1907, but the artist changed her date of birth to match the year of the Mexican Revolution. Also, outside you can see another inscription that says "Frida and Diego lived here 1929-1954". Again, this is slightly off, since she and Diego lived in separate houses for 5 of those years, divorcing in 1939 and then remarrying a year later.

      After Frida died, she was cremated, and her ashes are kept inside a mortuary urn on her dressing table which you can see in her bedroom. Cheerful!


      MY VERDICT

      The museum is very easy to navigate, with various signs in English as well as Spanish, and a good mixture of paintins, artefacts and general architecture to enjoy. I really like this museum because it's different, it's fun, and it gives you a proper glimpse of what Frida's life in the house must have been like. You don't have to be a follower of her works to appreciate this place and you can go there to learn more about her life if you're interested, or if not, at least to see a very, very blue house.


      MORE INFORMATION

      The museum is open 10am - 6pm Tuesday to Sunday, and closed on Mondays. Your admission fee also includes a free visit to the Diego Rivera-Anahuacalli Museum within one month of visiting the Casa Azul.

      http://www.museofridakahlo.org/

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frida_Kahlo

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