“Two Nudes in the Forest” sets $8M auction record for Frida Kahlo and Latin American art

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Frida Kahlo's "Two Nudes in a Forest"

Two Nudes in the Forest (The Land Itself),” a painting by Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), set a new auction record for the late Mexican painter when it sold for $8 million at Christie’s sale of impressionist and modern art Thursday night. The previous auction record for Kahlo was $5.6 million. 

In addition to setting a record for Kahlo’s work, the $8 million sale also sets the record for any Latin American artist at auction. The previous record, also at Christie’s, was Rufino Tamayo’s “Trovador,” which achieved $7,209,000 in May, 2008.

Frida Kahlo's "Two Nudes in a Forest"

Image courtesy of FridaKahlo.org

Kahlo’s 1939 painting depicts two naked women sitting in a forest. The light-skinned woman lays her head on another dark-skinned woman’s lap. In the background, a monkey observes the scene, which is a traditional symbol for sin and the devil. It was originally entitled as “The Earth Itself” and was a gift from Kahlo to her intimate girlfriend, Mexican movie start Dolores del Rio.

Rufino Tamayo’s “Trovador”

Tamayo’s “Trovador” held the previous record, fetching $7,209,000 in 2008.

The painting’s imagery has been the subject of many interpretations – and some controversy. Kahlo herself was openly bi-sexual, and some say the painting is an expression of this. Others claim the theme is not sexual at all, but reveals questions about Kahlo’s duality: the European and the Mexican Indian – the comforter and the one being comforted.

The two female figures have also appeared in Kahlo’s painting “What I saw in the Water.”

“Two Nudes in the Forest” was last auctioned by Sotheby’s in 1989 with an estimated bidding price of $160,000. It was purchased by Mary Anne Martin. Pop star Madonna tried to acquire this painting, but was outbid. 

Story compiled with information from The Associated Press, Christie’s Auction House,  and FridaKahlo.org