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If all the drama surrounding the Frida Kahlo Barbie has you pining for a deep dive back into the artist’s real life and work, you’re in luck. Last night, Google Arts & Culture launched Faces of Frida, a collaboration between the tech giant and a worldwide network of experts and 33 partner museums in seven countries. Accessible via the Google Arts & Culture app and website, Faces of Frida is the largest collection of artworks and objects related to Kahlo ever compiled.
The 800 artifacts include images of Kahlo’s work — including 20 ultra-high resolution images created by Google Arts & Culture’s Art Camera, never digitized till now — but also personal photographs, journal entries, letters, and clothing. There are drawings from private collections, like Kahlo’s 1932 “View of New York”; there are early versions of her work, sketched and etched onto the backs of finished paintings, unseen to anyone without the ability touch them; and even a photo of her husband, Diego Rivera, with the imprint in bright pink lipstick of Kahlo’s lips.
“For years, we have been working in partnership with a network of partner museums and experts from all over the world to … present a more complex portrait of Kahlo and her lasting influence available to everyone, anywhere,” Luisella Mazza, the head of operations for Google Arts & Culture, told Hyperallergic.
The five Google Street view tours on Faces of Frida also allow users to visit “the places that made an impact on her career,” as a Google Arts & Culture statement puts it, including the famous Blue House in Mexico City in which she was born and died.
“There are so many ways to be interested in Frida Kahlo,” Peter Schjeldahl wrote over a decade ago in The New Yorker. “No one need appreciate art to justify being a Kahlo fan or even a Kahlo cultist.” It’s true — Kahlo’s legacy has its own kind of gravity. Her historical effluence gets metabolized in all the ephemeral bits her fans will ingest: her dying words, the notes sent to lovers, the colors of her home as evidence of her loveliness. What other artist has left a legacy that spans innumerable tote bags, posters, Halloween costumes, tourist attractions, blockbuster exhibitions, and more?
In keeping with Kahlo’s vast influence, Faces of Frida also offers an in-depth look at the artist’s ongoing impact on music, fashion, and dance. Users can read essays and tributes written specifically by women and LGBTQ artists, view a new artwork by Alexa Meade — guided by Cristina Kahlo — and watch a short film that follows the making of a portrait inspired by Frida’s work, with Mexican musician Ely Guerra as the model.
“Though self-portraits may be how most people first encounter Frida Kahlo, the woman they portray is revered for much more than her art,” Mazza added. “The complexity of her thinking on feminism and politics, the relationship with her body, her legacy and her country, remains fresh and continues to inspire people from all backgrounds.”
“The impossibility of reforming Tony [Soprano] bears some resemblance to the crisis plaguing museums and toxic philanthropy today, where a culture of bullying and exploitation belies programming of socially- and politically-engaged art.”
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