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Sneak peek: Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo exhibition at the DIA

Mar 11, 2015

The Detroit Institute of Arts is debuting a new exhibition about the year Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo spent in Detroit in 1932. It opens Sunday, March 15, but Michigan Radio got a sneak peek at a media preview.

The exhibition is the brainchild of DIA director Graham Beal and curator Mark Rosenthal. This will be the last major exhibition for Beal before he retires this summer. 

"This exhibition, as I remember it, started off in my head," Beal said. "As I learned a little bit more about the subject, I began to understand how very very important Rivera was for the U.S. art scene in general, in the 1930s." 

The Rivera-Kahlo exhibition couldn't be more well-timed, Mark Rosenthal explained. Rivera and Kahlo visited Detroit during the depression, when there was talk of selling the collection and closing the museum. Now, in the wake of Detroit's bankruptcy, the DIA has escaped unscathed and can finally bring the story of the two artists to fruition. 

When Rivera came to Detroit to paint the Detroit Industry mural, his wife Frida Kahlo was a relatively unknown artist.

Over the course of their year in Detroit, Kahlo suffered residual ailments related to a bus accident several years earlier, and had a miscarriage at Henry Ford Hospital. The miscarriage inspired many of Kahlo's works for the remainder of her career, and her fascination with anatomy can be seen in many of her paintings from then on. 

Throughout the exhibition's development, the Detroit Institute of Arts and its curators hosted focus groups and panels, to get feedback from the public. They focused on Detroit's Mexican-American community in particular, and discovered that many residents there were concerned about access to the show.

In response to that feedback, the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit exhibition is the first in the DIA's history that is entirely bilingual, from the audio tours to the written signs on the walls. 

For more information about the exhibit, visit dia.org

--Paige Pfleger, Michigan Radio Newsroom