MFA Boston Acquires the First Painting Frida Kahlo Sold

01_Kahlo_Dos Mujeres

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston has acquired Frida Kahlo’s “Dos Mujeres (Salvadora y Herminia),” 1928, the institution announced this week. The portrait of two women against a backdrop of foliage is especially significant because it is the first-ever painting sold by Kahlo. Acquired in 1929 directly from the artist by industrialist Jackson Cole Phillips, the work was executed shortly before Kahlo’s marriage to Diego Rivera and is signed “Frieda,” rather than “Frida,” the spelling she would later adopt, the Boston Globe notes.

The painting is the museum’s first Kahlo, and the only painting by the celebrated artist held by a museum collection in New England. A senior staffer at the Museum of Fine Arts encountered the portrait at Mary-Anne Martin Fine Art on New York’s Upper East Side last November, and quickly moved to make the purchase. Export restrictions in Mexico have constrained the supply of Kahlo works offered outside the country, and demand is relatively strong when examples do surface at auction elsewhere, though her prices lag behind male Western artists of comparable repute. (The artist’s public sales record of $5.6 million was set in a 2006 auction at Sotheby’s, barely past the low estimate of $5 million.)

“I like to keep a fairly low profile, but if people are speculating I’m happy to say yes I was the one [who sold the painting],” Mary-Anne Martin told ARTINFO in a brief phone interview. “It’s exciting for me that the people at the museum are so excited, it was really top to bottom enthusiasm there.”

She described “sitting there on Christmas Eve filling out some forms” to complete the museum’s expedited acquisition of the work, which according to National Public Radio was consigned to her by Jackson Cole Phillips’s heirs. “It was quite amazing, they really wanted the painting, and selling works to museums usually requires an enormous amount of patience and faith,” Martin said. “This time it went much more quickly.”

“Dos Mujeres” has gone on view in the Museum of Fine Arts’s Carol Vance Wall Rotunda, where it will remain until March 1.

Mostafa Heddaya (@mheddaya), with additional reporting by Judd Tully (@juddtully)

(Photo: Partial view of Frida Kahlo, “Dos Mujeres (Salvadora y Herminia),” 1928, courtesy MFA Boston)

This story has been updated to include comment from Mary-Anne Martin.