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Google’s new virtual exhibition reveals a deeper layer of Frida Kahlo’s life and work

Faces of Frida unveils newly digitised paintings and invites users to virtually tour the locations that influenced the celebrated artist's work.

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By Architectural Digest US | August 12, 2021 | Art

It comes as no surprise that the life and work of Frida Kahlo—arguably the pioneer of the selfie art form—have amassed a near cult-like following. Her tender face and prominent brow have been emblazoned on earrings, mugs, T-shirts, dorm-room posters, and watches; they have even transformed into a collection of emojis. As one of the most celebrated female artists in history, Kahlo has been the subject of numerous exhibitions, retrospectives, and films, but never before has her work been as accessible online as it is with Google's new virtual exhibition, appropriately titled "Faces of Frida," which debuted late last week.

Image: Courtesy Google Arts + Culture

Of course, there is no equivalent to observing a work of art or visiting a historic site in person, but the project does a remarkable job of translating the museum-visit experience online. It's as if all of the exhibitions and studies of her work ever organized have all been archived on the Web, readily available to be explored at one's leisure. Click through the online exhibit on her early works, for example, and watch as the paintings zoom in on specific elements or brushstrokes—mimicking the act of leaning in to a work to get a better view. Rather than simply viewing images or reading about the Blue House—the iconic cobalt-blue structure in Mexico where Kahlo was born, worked, and died that was later turned into a museum celebrating her life and legacy—users can take a Street View tour of her studio and gardens and get close enough to her books to read the spines or take in the stitching on one of her dresses (which is a relief for anyone who has had to stand in line for hours to enter the museum).

"We have joined the first online retrospective dedicated to the life and work of Frida Kahlo," said Carlos Philips, director of the Museo Dolores Olmedo, "because we recognize that it is without a doubt a unique opportunity to have an unparalleled approach to Frida's artistic production and to the impact she has had as an icon of art, in Mexican popular culture, and the world.” Included in the project is a Street View tour of "I Paint Myself," a exhibition staged at the Museo Dolores Olmedo, which, while only temporarily installed, will forever live on the Internet now.

Image: Google Arts + Culture

To create the digital compendium, Google partnered with 33 museums and institutions from seven countries to share their collections and archives. The project contains more than 800 artifacts, including artworks, personal photographs, letters, journals, and clothes, as well as nearly 20 works of art from private collections that have never been digitized and are seldom on public display. "This expertly curated online exhibition presents an intimate view of Frida Kahlo’s life and loves through her vibrant letters, candid photographs, and unpublished essays,” said Kate Haw, director of the Archives of American Art. “Through the story threads of these original records—a total of 54 rare documents drawn from our collections—we gain a deeper understanding of Frida’s relationships with historian Florence Arquin, artist Emmy Lou Packard, photographer Nickolas Muray, art collector Chester Dale, and writer John Weatherwax." For both Kahlo scholars and casual art enthusiasts alike, "Faces of Frida" is a fascinating treasure trove of information, art, and artifacts that present the artist's life and legacy in a new, more complete, light.

This article originally appeared on Architectural Digest US.