An art dealer in San Miguel De Allende, Mexico claims to own 1,200 items that once belonged to celebrated painter Frida Kahlo, including paintings, unsent letters and clothes. This collection would be worth a fortune if owner Carlos Noyola could prove that it actually belonged to Kahlo.
According to The New York Times, red flags were raised once the Princeton Architectural Press published a glossy art book in the United States featuring Noyola’s trove. Finding Frida Kahlo is scheduled for publication on Nov. 1, but is already available on Amazon and elsewhere. It contains lavish illustrations of many items in the collection. After viewing the book, a group of experts in the U.S., Mexico and Europe mobilized to say the materials were fake, even though none of them have been to San Miguel De Allende.
Mary-Anne Martin, a New York dealer in Latin American art, said in an e-mail to the NY Times that she had “seen photographs of many of the works in this collection” and had “read the provenance and all the material provided.” She added, “On the basis of the style and execution of the paintings and drawings, the character and the content of the letters, recipes and diary pages, I can tell you that they are fake.”
As a result of these responses, Mexican government trust that controls the copyright to Kahlo’s work filed a criminal complaint against Mr. Noyola, which will result in an investigation. The trust is also looking into halting sales of the book in the United States.
Noyola says he has already proven that his collection in authentic. He and his wife, Leticia Fernández, say they bought the items from a reclusive Mexico City lawyer, who told them that he had acquired them from a woodcarver who had made frames for Kahlo. She trusted him so much that she gave the woodcarver several suitcases and boxes full of her most intimate possessions. The Noyolas tracked down a photograph of the woodcarver, Abraham Jiménez López, which appears in the book. Mr. Noyola wonders why the experts dismiss the opinions of those he consulted. He said that he had become the target of a group of powerful interests who wanted to keep their monopoly over Kahlo’s name and the right to study, sell and show her works. “They are slandering us,” he said. “They are terrified that this book will validate the work.”