Art and authenticity: Frida Kahlo, fakes and the fate of a stolen work | Letters

Peter Glusker says we should focus on Frida Kahlo’s paintings, not her possessions; Ruth Brandon questions whether forgeries really matter; David Walker on the whereabouts of a stolen masterpiece

Jonathan Jones’s piece about the Frida Kahlo exhibition at the V&A is right (A shrine to St Frida misses the point – her art, not her stuff, tells us who she is, 13 June). The curators of the show have missed the boat and are looking at the wake.

Frida painted my cub scout banner and gave my sister and me hot chocolate on the nearly weekly visits with her when I was growing up in Mexico. Frida is no doubt spinning in her proverbial grave at being twisted and converted into a symbol represented by her stuff – icons to misplaced femininity. Frida’s clothes and trappings served her delightfully, but without her are empty objects that howl with absence.

The real Frida is vividly expressed in her paintings. Volumes could be written about what she painted, how she painted, how the objects and symbols in her paintings relate to each other and to us, the viewers. Her profound appreciation of life, including managing pain, and the ways in which she perceived and conceived being embedded in a relation to plants and animals and nature, sing from her canvases.

I hope the exhibition will perhaps make some go look at her paintings and listen to what she says in them.
Peter Glusker
Fort Bragg, California

• The really interesting question regarding art forgeries (How to spot a perfect fake, 15 June) is not whether such and such a picture turns out to be a fake but why, if it’s so good that only advanced materials science can spot it, its fakeness really matters? So long as the original artist is dead, and their income not affected, surely the only people injured are the ones who treat art as a form of currency? Take that pension funds that buy pictures then lock them away in vaults till they’ve gained enough value to resell, and hedgies who see everything in terms of cash. For the rest of us, if the Cranach on our wall, or the wall of the nearest museum, gives us as much pleasure as the copper-bottomed Cranach in Berlin, then who cares if it was made in the 16th century or the 20th?
Ruth Brandon

• So we may soon know the true whereabouts of the “just judges” stolen from the Ghent altarpiece in 1934, and we may enjoy the work of fiction written around its rediscovery (Report, 16 June). In the meantime I and other admirers of Albert Camus’s La Chute (The Fall) will go on believing it is hidden away in a back room in Amsterdam, under the eyes of Jean-Baptiste Clamence, the cynical self-proclaimed “judge-penitent” who took it off the thief’s hands to demonstrate that there is no justice in the world and no comfort for injured innocence other than submission to his new religion of desperate nihilism.
David Walker
Emeritus professor of French, University of Sheffield

• Join the debate – email

• Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit


The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
The Guardian view on Frida Kahlo: forging her own identity | Editorial
Editorial: Her value is not in her stupendous auction prices, but in her hard-won road to artistic greatness


18, Nov, 2021 @7:12 PM

Article image
Paris V&A show gets to the art of Anglo-French ties | Letters
Letters: An exhibition of medieval English art can teach us about today – and Brexit, write Andrew Hillier and David Redshaw

28, Jun, 2023 @4:45 PM

Article image
Frida Kahlo was a communist and proud. What would she think of the V&A gift shop? | Suzanne Moore
There were so many Kahlo books and gifts, from the affordable to the very pricey. It was all pretty, but made me think: did Frida paint a hammer and sickle on her plaster body cast for nothing?

Suzanne Moore

04, Sep, 2018 @9:51 AM

Article image
Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up review – forget the paintings, here's her false leg
V&A, London
By focusing on Kahlo’s life and her suffering rather than her art, this memorabilia-stuffed exhibition stifles her blazing visionary brilliance

Jonathan Jones

12, Jun, 2018 @10:22 AM

Article image
Museums should take their art on the road | Letters
Letters: The whole country should have access to prestigious collections based in London, says David Kennedy, while Pete James and Peter and Christine Nias remember mobile museums in South Yorkshire and Namibia respectively

01, Mar, 2023 @5:26 PM

Article image
Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera at the Bowes Museum

An odd couple take over the former home of another odd couple. No wonder Frida Kahlo's winking. The Guardian Northerner's arts ace Alan Sykes explains

Alan Sykes

11, May, 2012 @11:00 AM

Article image
Where's the air bridge to San Serriffe? | Brief letters
Brief letters: Protective bubbles | Pandemic literature | Sculptural distancing | Johnson’s gestures | Visiting San Serriffe


05, Jul, 2020 @4:04 PM

Article image
Returning artefacts of empire isn’t so simple | Letters
Letters: Michael Liversidge and Dr Jharna Gourlay respond to David Olusoga’s suggestion that British museums should send back thousands of objects taken from former colonies


29, May, 2018 @5:23 PM

Article image
Lee Krasner was an artist, not just a wife | Letters
Letters: Krasner’s husband is referred to throughout your review of her retrospective, writes Richard Ingham


31, May, 2019 @4:02 PM

Article image
Freedom for Frida Kahlo
Paintings by Frida Kahlo and her husband are being shown side by side in the UK for the first time. But does this add to her greatness – or detract from it? By Joanna Moorhead

Joanna Moorhead

28, Jun, 2011 @8:30 PM