Photo: George Laumann
Editor's note, Feb. 24, 11:45a.m.: We misnamed the executive director of the Rosslyn Business Improvement District. Cecilia Cassidy is the correct name.
Even fifty years after her death, Frida Kahlo still draws a crowd.
The chance to see 240 of the Mexican painter’s personal photos at the one place in the United States where they will be shown drew hundreds, if not thousands, to the Artisphere in Rosslyn Thursday night for the exhibition Frida Kahlo: Her Photos.
People waited on the museum’s main floor until a VIP reception for foreign dignitaries on the upper floor ended. Then people flowed up the stairs, filled the Terrace Gallery where her pictures hung, and flooded the top floor in a line that rippled three people wide some 200 feet long from the gallery entrance. Artisphere staff let in the first 150 or so and then allowed more to enter as some left.
For the county-owned Artisphere, this was a big night. Late last year on its first birthday the musuem had to undergo a corporate restructuring because it was losing money, and this event was seen as a tell-tale sign of its new life.
Cecilia Cassidy, the executive director of the Rosslyn Business Improvement District, said she did not see any single art exhibit as a “silver bullet” that would ensure the Artisphere’s success, but this could not hurt.
“This is the most exciting exhibit the Artisphere has had,” she said. “What we see here tonight is what we hope to see here in the future.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes.
This is the “programming we should have,” she said. “I’m hopeful that this will help us understand how to do this better.”
She made reference to the intertwined nature of the current exhibits at the Artisphere. The museum calls it “related programming” and includes films, concerts, dances and other exhibits about Kahlo or from her native Mexico.
The photos were chosen to show a side of Kahlo many people might not have known, officials said.
“A Frida which is much nearer to people, more human in a way,” said Hilda Trujillo Soto, the executive director of Casa Azul, Kahlo’s home and now museum in Coyoacán, a suburb of Mexico City. Coyoacán is one of Arlington’s five Sister Cities. She spoke through an interpretor. “These photographs just give you an intimate insight.”
The photos were found in Casa Azul's back rooms that had been sealed at the request of Kahlo’s husband, the artist Diego Rivera, upon his death in the 1950s. The museum decided to open the rooms in 2007, its website said. They found “28,000 new documents, 5,800 photos, works, drawings, engravings, pieces of printed matter, and personal items, including almost 300 garments from Frida’s wardrobe.”