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Frida Birthday Bash

During their lifetimes, Diego Rivera easily surpassed his wife Frida Kahlo in terms of success and notoriety … but in death, Kahlo’s undeniably overshadowed Rivera — not to mention his well-known contemporaries David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco. A decade ago, the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City observed the 100th anniversary of Kahlo’s birth with the largest, most comprehensive retrospective of her work. Assembled by five curators and comprising 354 pieces (paintings, drawings, photographs, manuscripts and letters), the exhibition aimed to present viewers with what museum director Roxana Velásquez Martínez del Campo described as “the complete Frida” — a tortured yet defiant artist who “wrote, thought [and] challenged the Americans.” That same year, the Museo Frida Kahlo in Coyoacán unveiled a small portion of a bounty discovered in 2004 — 22,000 personal items, including letters between Kahlo and her unfaithful husband, sketches, magazines, books, keepsakes, clothing and even a puppet theater. Taken together, this pair of exhibitions combatted the flimsy nature of “Fridamania” — a cultish fandom often critiqued for airbrushing Kahlo (strong communist leanings, overt bisexuality, personal woes, medical misery and all) into a digestible commodity based not on her work or convictions but her persona and signature style (unibrow, flower crown, Mexican Revolution-era attire, etc.). Offering a bit of a sneak preview of what’s in store for San Antonio’s second annual Frida Fest (July 15 at Wonderland of the Americas), the Frida Birthday Bash celebrates the enduring cultural icon’s 110th birthday (technically July 6) with a Sunday funday combining a “Frida-inspired” market with live entertainment, drinks and local cuisine.

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