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A purported Frida Kahlo archive is the subject of dispute

September 5, 2009 |  2:30 pm

Frida Kahlo 004a

A corollary to Godwin's Law says that, in any dispute, the first person to mention Adolf Hitler loses, because the argument has been instantly and irretrievably degraded. The Holocaust's villainy is singular.

In the current dust-up over a soon-to-be-published book about an archive of ephemera attributed to iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, a researcher who denounced it as a total fake also called the book the biggest fraud against the public since the 1983 publication of the bogus Hitler diaries. Applying Godwin, that's one strike for authenticity.

The previously unknown archive is the subject of Princeton Architectural Press's forthcoming book, "Finding Frida Kahlo." It’s hard to say whether or not the archive's 1,200 items, including everything from sketchy small paintings to a recipe for corn flan, are genuine. But it's worth noting that none of those who have gone on record to denounce it -- including more than a dozen art historians, museum professionals, dealers and artists, plus an errant blogger or two, mostly in Mexico City but some in New York -- has ever laid eyes on the material. (The Hitler diaries commenter also confessed, "I admit, I haven't seen the works ... ") Godwin doesn't say what to do in that disheartening case, but the word "degraded" certainly still applies.

Coincidentally, I have seen the purported Kahlo archive -- not once, but several times. (For lots more photos, click through to the jump.) In Sunday’s Arts and Books section I'll have a story about the dispute, plus some thoughts on what's driving the controversy -- and what needs to happen next.

-- Christopher Knight

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Photos: Pieces in an archive of 1,200 items attributed to Frida Kahlo. Credit: Christopher Knight / Los Angeles Times