“I leave you my portrait so that you will have my presence all the days and nights that I am away from you.”
Mexico City is full of museums — it was difficult to create an itinerary that included the highlights and few lesser-known attractions (the latter were eliminated after I got sick). At the top of my list, however, was The Blue House, better known as the Frida Kahlo Museum.
What I loved about Mexico City is that it’s full of art. Unfortunately, two other museums — the Palace of Fine Arts and Diego Rivera Mural Museum — were both mostly closed during my stay. Yet, there was still plenty to see.
It was a bit out of the way from my hotel in Roma Norte, which meant an Uber ride to the Blue House in Coyoacán, a beautiful neighborhood that I would’ve liked to spend more time exploring.
I left the hotel early enough to avoid much of the notorious Mexico City traffic and arrived well before the museum opened. For those without reserved tickets, arriving early is important to avoid waiting on a long line in the sun (as it was, I had to wait 20 minutes once the doors opened to buy my ticket and audio guide). Tickets are limited each day, but I was there in shoulder season on a weekday, so not getting in was not a concern. It was much more crowded, however, as I exited around noon.
I wasn’t sure about purchasing the audio guide, but I’m glad I did. Despite all the art I’ve studied, I knew little about Frida Kahlo’s work and life. The audio guide was helpful in understanding what I saw in the museum, particularly as there aren’t many in-depth descriptions around the Blue House.
The Frida Kahlo Museum is less about her artwork and more about her life — it’s the house where she grew up and later lived with Diego Rivera. Rivera, despite his shortcomings, dedicated the house as a museum to his wife after she died in 1954 — it officially became a museum in 1958.
While Kahlo’s family was unable to maintain the house due to financial difficulties, Diego Rivera purchased it to ensure that his wife would not lose her childhood home.
The layout of the house is part of what makes the Frida Kahlo Museum interesting. It’s an irregular space that encompasses a beautiful courtyard and garden where Kahlo kept some exotic pets, which were featured in some of her paintings.
The house also has plenty of Kahlo’s artwork. I didn’t know about anything other than her paintings, so seeing papier mache sculptures and puppets provided a different perspective.
The audio guide helped with more than navigating the rooms in the house — there were stories about Frida Kahlo’s youth and marriage to Diego Rivera. As I had never studied either of their lives and work, it was interesting to hear about them. Theirs was an unusual marriage, and not only because they were divorced and remarried. I didn’t know that they had an open marriage.
And while Diego in his day was the more famous artist, the stories revolved around how Frida was the one to impress people they encountered — and the couple had quite the admirers. The most entertaining tale of their life together was that, in an effort to deliberately anger Diego, Frida Kahlo slept with Leon Trotsky who had been living as a refugee guest with the couple. Diego kicked Trotsky out of the house — he ended up in a house nearby that is now a museum, which is where he was assassinated (I didn’t visit that museum).
After enjoying the lovely courtyard and artwork, I sat in the shade at the little cafe/gift shop tucked in a corner of the museum. It was a quiet spot to enjoy some tea and a simple bite to eat that wouldn’t upset my stomach. There isn’t much to the cafe, and I’d recommend finding a nearby restaurant instead to enjoy the Coyoacán neighborhood more (I wish I had been feeling better to enjoy it as well).
This was the most expensive museum I went to at 230 pesos, plus the cost of the audio guide, (not actually expensive compared to museums in the US) but it was definitely worthwhile. Had I been feeling better, and had I known what a beautiful neighborhood it was, I would’ve taken the subway out and walked around before and after.