The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) welcomes “Guests of Honor” from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York: Self Portrait with Monkey, 1938 by Frida Kahlo (1907–1954) and The Transparent Simulacrum of the Feigned Image, 1938 by Salvador Dalí (1904–1989). These works will be on display from February 7 through September 27, 2020, with a loan of another important Dalí’s painting, Remorse, or Sphinx Embedded in the Sand, 1931 from the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University in East Lansing. They will be accompanied by photographic portraits of the two iconic artists, from the Gilbert B. and Lila Silverman collection in Detroit and the DIA’s permanent collection. These works will be located adjacent to Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry murals.
The paintings attest to Kahlo’s and Dalí’s interest in unsettling imagery and unusual subject matter, and their imaginative, larger-than-life personalities. Both artists were deeply interested in self-analysis and drew upon a variety of biographical as well as non-biographical sources to construct and present their artistic identities in their work, and beyond it.
In Self Portrait with Monkey, Kahlo portrays herself as a poised, self-assured woman, with her signature prominent eyebrows and a fearless gaze. She adorns her neck with a bone and shell necklace that symbolizes her love and devotion to Mexican heritage and culture. The painting will be shown alongside three photographs from the DIA’s permanent collection. One, a portrait of Kahlo by Nickolas Muray (1892–1965), and two images by Bernard G. Silberstein (1905–1999), including a photograph of Kahlo painting Self-Portrait as a Tehuana (Diego on My Mind) with Diego Rivera, her husband and painter of DIA’s famous Detroit Industry murals, standing behind her.
Dalí’s Remorse, or Sphinx Embedded in the Sand, showing an enigmatic woman looking across a barren landscape, is a testament to the artist’s inventive imagination. The Transparent Simulacrum of the Feigned Image demonstrates the virtuosity of his surrealist technique of double image and optical illusion. These paintings will be displayed with two photographs of Dalí, revealing the importance of self-representation in his work.