A self-portrait by internationally famous Mexican artist Frida Kahlo sold for just under US $34.9 million at an auction in New York on Tuesday, the highest price ever recorded for a piece of Latin American art.
Sotheby’s auction house sold Diego y yo (Diego and I) for $34.88 million to Eduardo F. Costantini, an Argentine real estate developer and founder of an art museum in Buenos Aires.
Painted in 1949 and last sold in 1990 for $1.4 million, a record for a Latin American artwork at the time, the self-portrait – in which Kahlo included a miniature portrait of her husband Diego Rivera on her forehead – smashed the previous record for an artwork by a Latin American artist. Rivera’s painting Los Rivales (The Rivals) set the previous record when it sold for $9.8 million in 2018.
Diego y yo is the last major self-portrait Kahlo painted before her death in 1954 at the age of 47. Sotheby’s said the artist reached “the apex of her technical mastery” around the time the painting was made.
It depicts Kahlo with her iconic monobrow and three teardrops rolling down her face. Her hair appears to be choking her.
Emerging from Kahlo’s trademark monobrow is a miniature portrait of Rivera – one of Mexico’s most acclaimed muralists – with a third eye on his forehead. According to art critics, the image of Diego is representative of his prominence in Frida’s consciousness.
The couple married in 1929, divorced in 1940 and remarried later the same year. While their relationship lasted more than two decades, both Kahlo and Rivera had dalliances and affairs over the years.
According to The Washington Post, the anguish and sorrow depicted in Diego y yo could be the product of the pain Kahlo felt when Rivera began an affair with her friend and Mexican actress María Felíx the same year she painted the self-portrait.
Sotheby’s Latin America art director said in a statement that Diego y yo is more than just a beautiful artwork, describing it as a “summary of all of Kahlo’s passion and pain, a tour de force of the raw emotive power of the artist at the peak of her abilities.”
The auction house said in a statement sent to the Post that the artwork will be added to Costantini’s private collection. The identity of the seller is not publicly known.