A rare painting by Frida Kahlo sold in a New York auction house Tuesday for almost US$35 million, a record price for a work by the iconic Mexican artist and for a Latino artist.
A self-portrait of Kahlo entitled Diego y yo ("Diego and me," 1949), where the face of the painter's husband Diego Rivera appears on her forehead, smashed the former record of US$8 million set by a Kahlo in 2016.
That made it the most expensive Latin American work of art in history sold at auction, the previous record having gone to a painting by Diego Rivera himself, whose work Los Rivales (1931) sold for US$9.76 million in 2018.
The buyer was Argentine collector and businessman Eduardo Costantini, founder of the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA), although this work is for his private collection.
The businessman bid via telephone through Anna Di Stasi, Sotheby's director for Latin America, the auction house told AFP.
In 1995, Constantini – the son of an Italian immigrant who arrived in Buenos Aires in the early 20th century – paid a record US$3.2 million for Frida Kahlo's Autorretrato con chango y loro "(Self-Portrait with Monkey and Parrot") (1942).
In 2016 he paid just over US$16 million for Diego Rivera's Baile en Tehuantepec ("Dance in Tehuantepec") (1928). Rivera's previous record, from 1995, was just over US$3 million.
Diego y yo is emblematic of Kahlo's self-portraits, known for their intense and enigmatic gaze that made the Mexican painter, a feminist icon, famous around the world.
In the painting, Rivera's face appears on Frida's forehead, above her distinctive eyebrows and dark eyes from which a few teardrops fall.
The depiction of Rivera, who at the time was close to Mexican actress Maria Felix, as a third eye symbolises the extent to which he tormented her thoughts, art experts say.
Kahlo and Rivera married each other twice. She died aged just 47 in 1954.
Diego y yo last sold at Sotheby's for US$1.4 million in 1990.
In the same auction, a painting by French artist Pierre Soulages also broke a record for his work by reaching US$20.2 million dollars.
Soulages' painting, which had spent more than 30 years in a private collection, corresponds to the red period of the century-old French artist.
It sold for US$20.2 million after a heated battle between several bidders, some of them in Sotheby's auction room and others on the phone, greatly exceeding the previous record reached in 2019 of US$9.6 million euros in Paris.