So a friend and I decided to go to the Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Studio House Museum in the beautiful neighborhood of San Ángel, located in southern Mexico City. Two cousins of mine who live near there joined us in our visit to the Studio.
Address: Altavista Avenue, esquina Diego Rivera Colonia San Ángel Inn, 01060 Delegación Álvaro Obregón Mexico City
Open from Tuesday to Sunday, 10.00 – 17.30 h.
Juan O’Gorman, the Mexican painter and architect, bought two plots in San Ángel and built his own studio in one of them. He then showed them to his friend the painter, Diego Rivera, to whom he offered one of them. The deal was that O’Gorman would build him something, whatever Rivera wanted, and Rivera only had to pay for the land. Rivera accepted and asked for two buildings: a studio house for him, and a studio house for his wife, Frida Kahlo.
The studio house was designed and built in 1931. It was one of the first functionalist buildings in Latin America, which means that each space was designed with and for a purpose: to be a practical space where both Diego and Frida could live and work.
Diego’s house is the biggest and it is red and white on the outside. In it, you can find his sketches and collections, his furniture and clothes, his paintings and the objects that he picked up here and there.
Right next to Rivera’s building, there is a smaller blue one, which is Frida’s. There are still her small bedroom, her wooden sculpture collection, her clothes and her curtains. It was in that small house that she painted What the Water Gave Me, Vigilant Eye and The Deceased Dimas.
The couple had been living in the U.S. for the past three years and they returned to Mexico in 1934. Upon their return, Diego Rivera painted the fresco, Man, Controller of the Universe, a replica of Man at the Crossroads, which he painted at the Rockefeller Center but which was destroyed for being considered “anti-capitalist propaganda”.
Frida lived in her studio house from 1934 to 1942, then she returned to her Blue House in the neighboring borough, Coyoacán. Diego, on the other hand, stayed here until 1954.
Across both studio houses is Juan O’Gorman’s own studio. It is a spacious, well-lit place with big windows.
Unlike the other two, this house does not have any furniture or belongings. Only the sketch of a fresco painted by O’Gorman himself.
I must confess that I am not, nor I’ve never been (and I probably never will be) a fan of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. In fact, these are two artists that I consciously avoid, although living in Mexico means finding them on shoe prints and even on our 500 peso bills.
I came to the museum because I thought it would be good to do something different. Just because I don’t particularly like something means I should completely ignore it, especially when it comes to such representative art.
However, after reflecting upon it for some time, I have come to the conclusion that it is always interesting and, in a way, necessary to go to these places. Even if I don’t like the artists or the content displayed, this was someone’s house. This was a place where a woman and a man shared their life.
Yes, they split up after a few years, but this was a space where they sought to combine their home and their work in order to be happy. At least that’s what we know from Frida, thanks to one letter she wrote in November 1934, only a few months after moving into the studio:
“I think that by working I will forget my sorrows and I will be able to be a little happier.”Letter to the doctor, 13 November 1934