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Frida Kahlo, Amrita Sher-Gil and Irma Stern together in Johannesburg

04 November 2022

The exhibition called "Kahlo, Sher-Gil, Stern: Modernist Identities in the Global South" opened last 25 October.

Kellner, the Director of the Joburg Contemporary Arts Foundation hosting the exhibit, travelled to India and to Mexico to secure the paintings and to bring treasured parts of the archives of Kahlo and Sher-Gil to South Africa: the only videos on record of both; an indigenous Mexican huipil (blouse) and zagalejo (skirt) Kahlo wore; early drawings; the exquisite photographs Sher-Gil’s Sikh father took of her growing up. 

Three well-attended lectures on each of the three painters came before the opening. The lectures aimed to situate them as both recognized artists around the world and the revolutionary characters they each were in forging a modernist identity in their works. By bringing their shared characteristics together, Kellner has disrupted the colonial gaze.

"In the ten years that followed the end of the first World War, Kahlo, Sher-Gil, and Stern's lives overlapped. They were all impacted in different ways between roughly 1930 and 1941 by the big historical events between the end of colonialism in Mexico, India, South Africa, and Congo.

“All three artists have in common a mixed heritage that is inevitably represented in their work: Frida Kahlo was born in Mexico to an immigrant German father and a Spanish-Mexican indigenous mother, Amrita Sher-Gil was born in Budapest to an aristocratic Sikh Indian father and Hungarian mother, while Irma Stern was born in Schweizer-Reneke to immigrant German-Jewish parents. The exhibition asks how these three pioneering artists explore this multiplicity in portraits of themselves and others,” says Kellner.

Unexpectedly, the three pieces on display - Frida Kahlo's "Self Portrait of a Hummingbird and Thorn Necklace", Amrita Sher's "Three Gil's Girls", and Irma Stern's "Watussi Woman in Red" - are sufficient and reveal much about Kellner's curatorial approach. To provide a sense of the areas they come from, each is housed in a separate space within a gallery and each section is a journey into the inner and outer worlds of the three artists.

Other info and images at the link below (Museum website).

25 October 2022 – 22 February 2023