Montreal’s Immersive Exhibition Brings Frida Kahlo’s Art to Life

Innovative exhibition on the life and times of the acclaimed Mexican artist opens at Arsenal’s Center for Contemporary Art.

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Frida Kahlo, The Life of an Icon is not your usual exhibition that celebrates the work of an artist. In fact, it is quite different from the other immersive art shows of recent years. The groundbreaking show, which opens at Arsenal’s Center for Contemporary Art on Friday, is billed as an “immersive biography” – and that’s exactly what it is.

He uses video projections, virtual reality headsets, music and even a complete replica of a Mexican cantina to capture the life and times of the innovative Mexican painter. The two previous immersive exhibitions at the Arsenal in the past two years, Imagine Van Gogh and Imagine Monet, were more traditional in their approach, using projections to showcase the two artists’ paintings.

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“For us, it’s super important to explain a story,” said Rosa Monge, who created the exhibition with Raul Pedroche.

Both are digital artists working and living in Barcelona, ​​where they run an Ideal digital arts installation.

“You can have the wow effect and just see good pictures and it’s a good time,” Monge said. “But for us it’s important that you know the story, that you have some feelings when you go through that exhibition. We have the story here through your life. Who is Frida Kahlo? She is an icon all over the world, but we don’t know much about her life. So this is a great opportunity to learn a lot about her. When you’re going through the exhibition, you feel her passion, you feel how she lived, you learn a lot about her. So when you go out, you take a lot with you. This is important to us. May you take this knowledge with you. It’s her life.”

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There is a large, immersive room that takes you through some of the key moments of her life, most notably the terrible bus accident in 1925 that left her with lifelong health problems, her tempestuous marriage to Mexican painter Diego Rivera, and her case of love with Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky. The VR experience takes you into Kahlo’s dream world on a wild audiovisual tour that’s not for the faint of heart.

Part of the new immersive Frida Kahlo exhibition at Arsenal's Center for Contemporary Art.
Part of the new immersive Frida Kahlo exhibition at Arsenal’s Center for Contemporary Art. Pierre’s photo at the top /Montreal diary

The exhibition was held in Barcelona and currently also in Porto, Brussels and Tel Aviv, and will open in Phoenix. Montreal arts promoter Barry Garber, an associate producer for the show, said there are plans to take the show to several other cities in North America. It will open in Brooklyn in the fall.

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Garber admitted that some might find it surprising that he is starting his North American run in Montreal rather than in a US city.

“We did an online poll in several cities across the US and Canada to see if people were interested in seeing an exhibition of Frida Kahlo coming to their city and the #1 city in all of North America with the highest response was Montreal,” Garber said. “It was fascinating to see that there really was a wave in Montreal. So it made sense to start here. Montreal is a very artistic city. We have the best museum in the country. People here are interested in her as an artist and an icon. The Latino population in Montreal is growing and they like to go out and celebrate their culture, their music. I’ve been very involved in the last couple of years bringing Latin artists to Montreal and every show sold out, like Maluma from Colombia, Ricardo Arjona from Guatemala, Bad Bunny from Puerto Rico.”

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Monge and Pedroche also think the time is right for a Kahlo show.

“She’s an icon, especially in the feminist movement, she means a lot to women,” Monge said. “And social media helped her live a second moment for many people. She is an example of someone who overcomes so many problems and never gives up.”

“We are very proud of this work”, added Pedroche. “It’s like we’re creating a biopic.”

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