Sydney Festival Review: Frida Kahlo: The Life of an Icon brings flowers, colour and fruit to Oz, oh my!

If you’re going to The Cutaway at Barangaroo make sure to wear some flowers in your hair. As part of Sydney Festival, this will host A wonderful and immersive exhibition about Mexican artist and icon, Frida Kahlo. The result is a dazzling array of kaleidoscopic colours as we walk through a powerful homage to this incredible artist’s life and inspirations.

The first stop in the experience is dedicated to the altar to signify Mexico’s Day of the Dead Festival. We learn it is a tradition to honour lost loved ones between November 1 and 2 each year. It is clear Kahlo was inspired by the different shades and iconography associated with this special day in her ebullient paintings.

Born Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderó, this irreverent, rebellious, and intelligent artist is renowned for her monobrowed self-portraits (these account for around 80% of her work). She first picked up brushes as a way of recovering from a freak bus accident when she was 18. This one moment would change her life in so many ways.

She would be plagued by illness and pain throughout her life. But Kahlo was so strong, rather than let the pain get her down she wore offbeat colours, florals and long skirts as a kind of fashion therapy to mask her inner turmoil. Patrons can see some examples of traditional Mexican dress here, and there are some sessions where there will be some live music and dance.

Kahlo was one badass. She told people she was born during the Mexican Revolution in 1910 when her actual year if birth was 1907. She had several miscarriages after her accident but she showed her maternal side through her loving attention to family and friends. She had a love of nature and animals. She would live in the US and was the first Mexican artist to have a painting purchased by the Louvre.

The exhibition includes some different video installations. One is a holographic, multilayer experience featuring transparent elements. It blurs the lines between Kahlo and her lover, fellow artist, Diego Rivera.

Another big feature is a large room with 360-degree projections. Barcelona-based, Martes Studio have put together a full palette examining the experiences in Kahlo’s life. They do this through black and white photographs, animation, poetry, graphic design, and art in a 30-minute extravaganza.

Patrons can then sit down in the virtual reality room to explore Kahlo’s house in Coyoacán in Mexico City at the beginning of the 20th century. We witness her convalescence and ultimate death. Her legacy through her authentic and unique imagery is also celebrated.

Those wanting to embrace their own inner artist can do so in a few different ways at this exhibition. One room allows people to sit down and colour in their own Kahlo pictures (or create their own art). Another room has a photo booth and floral tribute to the artist. Yet another allows you to sit down and create your own floral crown for a fee. Those wanting to learn about her life can read up about her chronology on panels in both English and Spanish.

In short, this exhibition is an energetic, entertaining, and educational one. In it you will learn about Kahlo’s life in one fitting tribute to her enduring legacy. Her feisty spirit ultimately lives on and this exhibition really proves this incredible woman was one of a kind.


Frida Kahlo: The Life of an Icon is on display at The Cutaway Barangaroo until March 7.

For more information and tickets head HERE.