The Heard Museum Extends "Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera" Art Show Run

Diego Rivera/Courtesy of Heard Museum
Diego Rivera's Sunflowers (1943) is part of "Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera" at the Heard Museum.
The Heard Museum has extended its “Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera” exhibition through Monday, September 4.

The exhibition features 33 works by the renowned 20th-century Mexican artists. It opened on April 11, and was originally scheduled to close after August 20.

The Heard Museum is the only North American stop for the exhibition, which launched its international tour last year in Australia. After the Heard Museum, it returns to Mexico.

The exhibition is being held over for two weeks due to popular demand.

“We hoped that people would respond to this rare opportunity and they have in numbers beyond our expectations,” Heard Museum director and CEO David M. Roche said in the August 9 press release announcing the extension.

click to enlarge Crowds gathered for a first look at "Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera" at the Heard Museum on April 9. - LYNN TRIMBLE
Crowds gathered for a first look at "Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera" at the Heard Museum on April 9.
Lynn Trimble
So far, nearly 80,000 people have seen the exhibition.

Attendance more than doubled during April 2017 compared to April 2016. July 2017 attendance was up 245 percent over July 2016 attendance.

The exhibition also resulted in a record number of new memberships. More than 700 people have joined the Heard Museum during the show's run, says John Bulla, the museum's deputy director and chief operating officer. And sales of exhibition-related items in the museum's book shop have been brisk, he says.

Special exhibition-related events have helped to boost museum attendance.

In July, more than 3,000 people came out for the museum’s Fiesta de Frida event on First Friday, which featured Frida-inspired art, performance, and cuisine. The museum has more Frida-related programming lined up for Labor Day weekend.

The Heard Museum has held several Frida-related events in recent years. In November 2015, dancers performed Frida-inspired works by Phoenix choreographer Liliana Gomez. And the local art collective Phoenix Fridas has participated in several museum celebrations of their iconic namesake.

Evidence of Frida fandom exists in other parts of Phoenix, as well. Recently, filmmakers for a documentary called You Racist, Sexist, Bigot held a Queer Frida celebration at Crescent Ballroom. And one of Frank Ybarra’s paintings for this month’s “Caliente” exhibit at Practical Art is clearly Frida-inspired.

The iconic Mexican artists continue to generate interest in other parts of the country, as well.

Fort Worth Opera in Texas recently announced that it will premiere a new opera called "The Last Dream of Frida and Diego" in 2020.

The “Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera” exhibition includes paintings, as well as works in other media such as drawing and collage. They’re all part of the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection, which is often considered the most significant private collection of 20th-century Mexican art.

Several works featured in “Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera” were part of Phoenix Art Museum’s 2001 exhibition titled “Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Twentieth Century Mexican Art: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection.” They include Kahlo’s Self-Portrait with Monkeys and Rivera’s Calla Lily Vendor.

The Heard Museum became the sole North American venue by a twist of fate.

Something happened with the North American stop, so organizers asked Roche if he was interested in the show, Bulla says. Roche agreed, but only because of planned museum renovations. At that point, the museum's largest gallery measured just 3,000 square feet, which was too small to house the Frida and Diego show. But a new 7,000-square-foot gallery was in the works.

Other popular Heard Museum exhibitions, including a 2014 exhibition of works by Georgia O'Keeffe, were shown in the smaller gallery. That's one reason they drew smaller crowds. "Having a larger gallery means you can sell more tickets and reach more people," Bulla says.

And, it can mean bigger profits. "We'll have seen more than a million dollars in revenue by the time this exhibition closes," Bulla adds.

Expect more blockbuster-style exhibitions in the museum's Grand Gallery moving forward.

"We'll announce another one shortly after the Frida and Diego exhibition closes," Bulla says. "Having that much space enables us to do almost anything."

“Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera” continues through Monday, September 4, at the Heard Museum. It’s a special ticketed exhibition, so visitors who want to see it pay $7 in addition to museum admission (which is $18 for adults). Museum admission is free on Free Summer Sunday (August 27) and September First Friday (September 1, 6-10 p.m.), which means you'll only pay the $7 special exhibition fee to see the show. Learn more on the Heard Museum website.

Correction: This post has been updated from its original version to reflect the correct spelling of John Bulla's name.