Self-portrait of Frida Kahlo could fetch over $ 30 million at auction and be the most expensive work of a female artist to ever sell

Self-portrait of Frida Kahlo could fetch over $ 30 million at auction and be the most expensive work of a female artist to ever sell

Jean Dubreil | Sep 24, 2021 3 minutes read

A Frida Kahlo self-portrait will be auctioned in November. Sotheby's estimates it could fetch over $30 million. It would be the most expensive work by a female artist ever sold. The canvas was completed in 1949, five years before Kahlo's death. The painting will go on display in Hong Kong and London before making its way to New York later this month.


Frida Kahlo self-portrait - Diego y yo - Sotheby's

In November, Sotheby's will auction off Frida Kahlo's most treasured self-portrait. It is expected to set a new auction record for the artist.

The self-portrait of Kahlo was completed five years before her death in 1954. The painting titled Diego y yo (Diego and I) depicts the tear-stained face of Diego Rivera's wife, Maria Malenkaya, with an image of Rivera on her forehead. The painting represents, perhaps, the space that he occupied in her thoughts. Sotheby's in New York will be highlighted with a canvas highlighting a selling price estimated to be over $30 million, according to an announcement from the auction house. When asked to comment on the spokesperson's remarks, the auction house representative stated that the artwork carries a guarantee from the seller, and refused to elaborate further. It will take place during the week of November 15, but a specific date has not yet been confirmed.


Frida Kahlo, seated next to an agave, during a photoshoot for Vogue in 1937 titled "Señoras of Mexico".

The quality and excellence of a Kahlo painting is rare, according to Julian Dawes, the co-head of Impressionist & Modern Art at Sotheby's in New York. When asked to comment on the artwork, the executive stated that “abre los ojos”—Spanish for “open your eyes”—played in his mind. As the market opens its eyes to Kahlo in a new way, she is secured in her place in the auction echelon.

According to Gannit Ankori, in her book Imaging Her Selves: Frida Kahlo's Poetics of Identity and Fragmentation, Kahlo's use of the red dots and green background on Diego and I represents the quote from Kahlo and Rivera, who said of their relationship: “I take comfort in the fact that inside the rougher patch, the equilibrium is supplied by a great amount of red.”


Frida Kahlo, by Guillermo Kahlo

In March of 2016, Christie's sold $8 million for Kahlo's most expensive work at a public auction. In the estimation of experts, if Diego and I were to meet our predicted cost, we would be the second-most expensive piece of artwork by a female artist ever sold at auction.

Due to the rarity of the work and Kahlo's popularity, it would not be difficult to imagine that the price paid for the painting could surpass $44.4 million, which was the previous record for a work by a female artist when Georgia O'Keeffe's Jimson Weed/White Flower No.1 (1932) sold for $44.4 million in 2014. Kahlo's 1941 self-portrait was reportedly sold at a Sotheby's auction for more than $130 million. Earlier, in 1990, Diego and I appeared at Sotheby's where the paintings were sold for $1.4 million, which was a record at the time for a Kahlo painting and a Latin American artist's artwork.

The painting will be exhibited in the Hong Kong and London branches of Sotheby's between October 7 and October 11, and in New York between October 22 and October 25.

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