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Frida Kahlo exhibit to open Saturday at Norton Museum of Art

Exhibit features more than 150 works in several rooms
Posted at 4:45 AM, Oct 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-22 11:37:30-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Frida Kahlo's famous unibrow, colorful palette and striking personal story have made her one of the most recognizable artists in the world.

A large show entitled "Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Mexican Modernism from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection" has arrived at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach.

The exhibit opens to the public Saturday.

WPTV was able to get a preview, as well as an exclusive look at how the exhibit was organized.

Frida Kahlo art exhibit at Norton Museum of Art
The exhibit will feature multiple paintings and works on paper by Frida Kahlo as well as pieces by her husband Diego Rivera.

The exhibit features more than 150 works in several rooms. There are many paintings and works on paper by Kahlo herself, as well as pieces by her husband, Diego Rivera.

Photographs of the artist and work by artists inspired by Kahlo's work line the walls of several galleries.

In the center of some rooms, clothing inspired by the time period gazes outward. This allows you to gaze through the garments on statuesque mannequins to the art on opposite walls.

Curator Ellen Roberts worked for months on any exhibit in advance, preparing how visitors will experience the work. The first impression, she said, is important.

"You want that to be something that really kind of grabs them," she said.

Curator Ellen Roberts
Curator Ellen Roberts discusses how the art will be displayed at the museum.

She solves the puzzles of where art should be displayed and experienced using models and color.

"A to-scale map of the gallery, and then of the different things you want to fit in the gallery," she explained, showing various boards filled with exhibits and artwork in tiny format.  

Many of the pieces she positions have the potential to be displayed in several spaces, whether it be grouped by categories like time period, subject matter, scale or palette.  It's up to Roberts to become a storyteller.  

She visualizes how visitors might enter the space and move. Sometimes the same room has multiple entrance points. Other spaces may have a combination of artificial and natural light pouring in.  

The color of the paint in any room must set an appropriate tone, and complement the works as a whole.

In the Kahlo exhibit, that means a balance of a neutral gray with bolder colors that are dialed back appropriately so as not to detract from the colorful work.

"You don’t want to use those colors, because if you do you might actually blow the art out of the water, so you kind of take those colors and dial them back," she said.

Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach
The Norton Museum of Art will host the Frida Kahlo exhibit through Feb. 6, 2022.

Roberts said she has been working with an architect who is an expert in aligning the various elements, who helped to hand-select each very specific wall paint color.

When the pieces physically arrive at the museum, that's when Roberts must make the final choices. She often makes tweaks to her plan for where the individual art pieces will hang. 

"I go into the gallery and it changes because I'm working with the actual art," she said.

The exhibit opens will remain on view until Feb. 6, 2022.

The Norton Museum of Art allows the public to book private tours and timed tickets. Multiple events inspired by the exhibit have been organized to include the whole family.

The museum gift shop also has special plans to encourage visitors to enjoy the art. Kahlo-inspired gifts have been selling quickly, weeks ahead of the opening.