Several cities around the world have become homes to innovative immersive art experiences. Thanks to the creative minds behind Lighthouse Immersive the art world has become more accessible to a broader audience. Here in Toronto, we’ve stepped into the fantastical spaces filled with larger than life works by Van Gogh and Klimt.
We’ve explored ten breathtaking libraries in Robert Lepage’s Library at Night. We’ve experienced the holiday tradition of the Nutcracker: A Winter Miracle unlike any other. We’ve also been moved by the raw and emotional live choreography through famed dancer Guillaume Cote’s Touch. The latest to the entry is Immersive Frida, a captivating look at the art and life of Frida Kahlo, now open Toronto.
Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) is considered the most famous Mexican and female artist in the world.
Best known for her self-portraits inspired by her life and are considered surreal yet traditional. They often reflect her inner thoughts and struggles.
Some of the artist’s best known works are brought to life in this new immersive experience. World-renowned master of digital art, Massimiliano Siccardi (Italy) including The Two Fridas, The Wounded Deer, and Diego and I has brought her to life. But this immersive experience goes beyond the art. By the way, the latter painting mentioned recently sold at Sotheby’s for a record $34.9 million in November 2021). That makes it the most coveted piece of Latin American artwork ever sold at an auction. Here we also explore her influences and life through archival family photos, drawings and music.
Just ahead of the official opening to the public we were fortunate to sit down with members of Frida Kahlo’s family. We wanted to learn more about how they became involved with Lighthouse Immersive in creating this stunning exhibition. What does it all mean to them? Mara Kahlo (grand-niece) and Mara de Anda (great grand-niece) run the Fundacion Familia Kahlo. They two oversee the copyright and representation of the legendary artist’s work.
For over a year, they’ve been working with the creators at Lighthouse Immersive.
Mara de Anda explains that they had seen the work the company had done with Van Gogh and Klimt. Although they enjoyed their presentations, they felt that there was more about Frida’s life to explore beyond her iconic paintings. There was a story to be told beyond being a rebellious painter that everyone was already familiar with.
What they wanted to bring attention was the importance of Mexico, Diego, and family. It was also important to the family to share insight to Frida’s life and what influenced her work. “We told them that we needed to be part of the development of this show,” said Mara de Anda. “We also wanted to also share some of the family photos from the archives. So, they really loved the idea and we made an agreement.”
Both Maras also loved how the team incorporated music into the overall experience. World-renowned master of digital art Massimiliano Siccardi (Italy) and composer Luca Longobardi worked with the family in a moving experience that they hoped would bring visitors even closer to Frida. “Massimiliano proposed the music suggested the songs be from everywhere because Frida was internationally known,” said Mara Kahlo. “He’s right. Frida is for the world. She is inside us all.”
Frida Kahlo’s popularity has grown in recent decades as her works continue to resonate with art lovers across generations.
It’s hard to believe it was 2012 when the Art Gallery of Ontario featured the Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in a major exhibition here in Toronto. Mara de Anda tells us the logistics and timing that goes into an exhibition tour was complicated.
From carefully packaging original works for shipping to ensuring proper displaying minimal lighting and humidity damage to the works was of utmost care and coordination with galleries and museums around the world. Timing was always important for a travelling show to keep on track. Then the pandemic happened and the art world, like the rest of the world, was presented with new challenges. Traditional ways of seeing art would pause.
Immersive exhibitions have brought a new and fresh perspective. This concept was a new way for the family to continue to offer access to Frida’s art but what also transpired was the appeal for a new generation of up and coming art lovers as well as those who are familiar with Frida’s work but wanted to know more about her. Incorporating the digital world for the new generation is a way to show her work in a different and relatable way that continues to move and inspire conversation.
It’s a great opportunity to experience Frida in a very different environment and it’s for all ages. Parents with young children and grandparents can visit without worry in the open space.
“We have nine cities that will be showing this at the same time. In the past, we had to do an exhibition and then people would have to wait for it to come to their city as part of tour. It may take two years or more to arrive at your city. This is a refreshing way to seeing Frida without compromising the artwork,” said Mara de Anda.
They tell us each of the nine venues currently showing Immersive Frida is different. Here in Toronto, it’s one large rectangular space with an elevated centre platform that the Maras love for it’s great overview of the massive space. But they also love what we call the hidden secret room under the platform that they haven’t seen elsewhere. Mara de Anda also tells us about the Chicago venue that takes place in a historical space with multiple rooms to view Frida that is very different from the others.
What did the Maras want us to know about this experience?
“As a family we think that everybody knows the sad Frida or the strong Frida as well as the relationship between Frida and Diego. But we, the family, have this other side of Frida to share. The HAPPY Frida. The loving, caring, and warm Frida and with this exhibition in particular we hope that when you come to see this show, you can immersive yourself and let out your inside Frida. Everyone can do it. We are living in times of pandemic and war so with this kind of project, we want to inspire people to be better and to explore themselves.”
Immersive Frida Kahlo is now open to the public at the Lighthouse Artspace in Toronto. Located at 1 Yonge Street in a 500,000 square foot exhibit space that previously housed the Toronto Star’s printing presses. Visitors will experience Frida Kahlo’s work in a stunning 360-degree setting. Tickets and more info can be found here: www.immersive-frida.com
About Frida Kahlo:
Kahlo was born in 1907 in Mexico City. After surviving polio at the age of six, Kahlo was involved in a horrific accident at the age of 18, when the bus she was riding on was struck by a streetcar, leaving her with a broken spinal column, along with myriad of other injuries. Bedridden, Kahlo was encouraged by her parents to take up painting to help pass the time. A custom-made easel allowed her to pain while lying down.
During these long days, Kahlo often spent hour after hour staring at her own image that was reflected in a mirror fixed over her bed. It is here that she began presenting herself as the subject matter of her work, channelling her personal struggles into her art. Kahlo’s travels throughout Mexico and the United States further developed her artistic style. Individualistic and rebellious, her spirit was torn between the Communist Party and the Mexican Nationalist movement.
Despite her lifelong passion for her husband, Diego Rivera, she is said to have had numerous affairs with other men and women. Throughout her life, Kahlo developed a rich iconography touching on the realms of life and death and mixing violence and vulnerability in ways that often shocked viewers by pushing gender norms. Kahlo stands today as an iconic figure and a symbol of female empowerment, individual courage and Mexican pride.