Kahlo in Real Life

Mexico City tries to turn interest in Hollywood film into tourism in painter's hometown

By: Maxine Cass

Frida,” a Hollywood biography of the unorthodox Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, drew critical acclaim on its debut last month and even some Oscar buzz for its star and producer, Salma Hayek. It also is expected to increase public interest in Kahlo and her husband, muralist Diego Rivera, which could be a benefit for travel agents sending clients to Mexico City this winter.

Several museums are showcasing the couple’s works, and tour operators are offering commissionable packages.

The Museo Frida Kahlo at Casa Azul (the Blue House), in the city’s Coyoacan district. Kahlo was born and died here, and no place in Mexico City so evokes the presence of the flamboyant woman who lived each day in pain after a serious accident but still pursued art, love and radical politics. Her last painting of watermelons and an urn with her ashes are in this house museum, along with a photograph of Lenin, her wheelchair and a painting of a one-time paramour, Leon Trotsky.

Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo, where the couple lived from 1934 to 1940, is in the city’s San Angel District. None of Kahlo’s paintings are displayed in the two houses and studios, which are connected by an aerial walkway, but the household furnishings from their unusual living arrangements remain.

Museo Dolores Olmedo, in the Xochimilco District, belonged to Diego Rivera’s patroness and sometime model. It is a showcase for 144 of his works, from sculpture to sketches, paintings and his collection of pre-Hispanic clay figures and dogs, as well as 25 Kahlo paintings.

Museo de Arte Moderno, in Chapultepec Park, includes Kahlo’s work amid that of other 20th-century artists, including Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Jose Clemente Orozco, Dr. Atl, Rufino Tamayo and Juan O’Gorman, who built the innovative Casa Estudio complex for Rivera and Kahlo.

Call the Mexico Tourism Board at 800-44-639-426. Web site: www.visitmexico.com.

Commissionable Packages

Two Mexico City hotels have announced Frida packages, both commissionable at 15%.

Hotel Marquis Reforma has a weekend package valid until Jan. 7, Thursday through Sunday nights, with a two-night minimum. The rate is $289 per night, including taxes, and includes buffet breakfast for two, a $50 credit applied to the hotel bill and a bilingual, five-hour guided tour that includes the Casa Azul, Casa Estudio and Olmedo museums.

Call 800-235-2387. Web site: www. marquisreformahl.com. mx.

Gran Melia Mexico Reforma also has a weekend package, valid Friday through Sunday nights, with a two-night minimum, until Feb. 28. The rate is $235 for a standard room and $282 for a deluxe room, including buffet breakfast for two, a lunch, tours on the city’s new tourist trolley and of the Casa Azul and Olmedo museums.

Call 800-336-3542.

Web site: www.granmeliamexicoreforma. solmelia.com.

Majestic Mexico Tours is paying a 10% travel agent commission on its five-day Frida Kahlo Upclose and Personal tour that includes three days of Kahlo and Rivera-related sights, a city tour and visits to the Museum of Anthropology, Xochimilco, the Basilica of Guadalupe and Teotihuacan’s pyramids. Several hotel options are offered at $349 to $459 per person, double, through Dec. 15. Call 877-639-6392. Web site: www.mexico-tours.com/frida.htm.