With less than a month to go until it closes, Mexico 1900-1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and the Avant-Garde has already broken records. It’s currently one of the Dallas Museum of Art’s (DMA) most successful exhibits in the last five years, and it’s attracted a record number of first-time visitors, many of whom are Latinos, according to NBC News. Museums aren’t always the most inviting spaces for people of color, but this show completely revolves around Mexican history and stories. Dallas is the only US stop for the exhibit, which features “Las Dos Fridas,” a Kahlo painting that rarely leaves Mexico. Now, the DMA is trying to break a new record for Kahlo’s birthday.
On what would have been her 110th birthday, the museum is hosting Frida Fest – an event that invites guests to dress up as the artist in an attempt to set a Guinness world record. That day, visitors are encouraged to draw in a unibrow and wear a pink or red shawl to emulate the famed artist.
Even if the DMA does not succeed, this exhibit has already done so much for the Mexican and Mexican-American community in Dallas. José Villanueva, an artist who volunteers for the “Yo Soy DMA” program intending to get more Latinos into the museum said he’s never “seen this many brown people in the museum before.”
But because this exhibit explores the history of Mexican art, many have decided to come and learn more about their own culture. “This art we are seeing in this exhibition was the first time people (in Mexico) could understand their history and their culture and understand the progression of what was happening,” said Jorge Baldor, one of the exhibit’s backers. “So Mexico developed its national identity through this art.”
Though the exhibit has been wildly successful, getting to the museum posed challenges. When Agustín Arteaga, the museum’s art director, proposed bringing the 200 pieces that make up the exhibit from Paris to Dallas, he couldn’t easily find funding. Baldor, who attended a luncheon where Arteaga talked about the exhibit, immediately showed interest and reached out to his contacts to try to make it possible. But after weeks of trying to persuade them, Baldor came up short. It wasn’t until Baldor wrote Arteaga a check for $200,000 that other donors jumped in. “When he had that commitment, we were able to go back to all the people that were on the sidelines and the commitments came, one right after the other,” Baldor said.
The exhibit then faced another challenge: accessibility. The $16 per person admission price is not affordable for many Latino families. But the museum attained corporate sponsorships that allowed them free entry on specific family days. And through the Yo Soy DMA campaign, they went into Latino neighborhoods – Pleasant Grove and Oak Cliff for example – to promote the exhibit.
All these efforts worked, because the museum saw long lines on family days. Half of the entire exhibit’s attendees are first-time DMA visitors. And for many of them, this exhibit was deeply personal. “So many families and people of all ages have expressed personal stories about how this has touched them,” Baldor added. “No better outcome could be expected.”