Detroit art museum to open Rivera and Kahlo exhibition in March

Tue Mar 10, 2015 5:29pm EDT
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By Serena Maria Daniels

DETROIT (Reuters) - The Detroit Institute of Arts, renowned for its Diego Rivera murals, is set to open a public exhibition of his works and those of his wife, Frida Kahlo, this month, the biggest since the museum's collection was threatened in the city's bankruptcy.

"Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit" will feature nearly 70 works by the Mexican artists and is the first to focus on the 11 months they spent in Detroit in 1932 and 1933, when Rivera worked mainly on the "Detroit Industry" murals.

Rivera's preparatory drawings for the 27-panel "Detroit Industry" frescoes, which have not been shown in nearly 30 years, will be part of the exhibit opening on Sunday.

The idea for the exhibit arose more than a decade ago, but uncertainty over the city-owned institution's finances and other setbacks delayed the process, museum director Graham Beal said. Dozens of works were obtained on loan from museums in the United States and Mexico and from private collectors.

"When we knew we had a life in front of us, we returned to the idea of the Rivera exhibition, based on the Rivera murals," Beal said.

Curator Mark Rosenthal teamed with experts in labor, medicine and the city's Mexican-American community to give visitors a sense of what life was like for the artists in Depression-era Detroit.

Rivera's grandson Juan Coronel Rivera told reporters it was daunting to research his grandfather but that the project helped him better understand his contributions to modern art.

His research included reviewing archives of letters Rivera wrote to Kahlo when she left Detroit to be with her dying mother in Mexico, he said.   Continued...

An oil on canvas painting "Ruth Rivera" by Mexican muralist Diego Rivera is viewed during a preview of the exhibit of Rivera and painter Frida Kahlo at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) in Detroit, Michigan March 10, 2015. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook