Frida Kahlo Exhibition in Budapest Criticized for Promoting Communism

A major exhibition of work by the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo at the Hungarian National Gallery is at the center of controversy in Budapest. “Frida Kahlo: Masterpieces from the Museo Dolores Olmedo, Mexico City” has been accused of promoting communism by a right-wing pro-government newspaper. The backlash is part of a wider debate about Hungarian culture and cultural policy, which is currently being reshaped by the country’s new nationalist government.

An uproar over the show began on July 14, after the newspaper Magyar Idők published an article titled “This Is the Way Communism Is Promoted Using State Money,” and has been fueled by supporters of prime minister Viktor Orban, who won his third election victory in April and has been in office since 2010. For many, criticisms of the show reflect Orban’s push for a more conservative cultural narrative in Hungary.

Tamas Fricz, a right-wing political analyst who has helped organize mass rallies for Orban, told Reuters that the aim is “not to destroy liberal culture,” but to adjust the system so the government can “support more conservative thinking, artists and works of culture.” 

Kahlo, who was affiliated with the Communist Party of Mexico, is also said to have decorated the head of her bed with images of communist leaders Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong. Featuring more than thirty of Kahlo’s paintings, the exhibition has drawn up to 3,000 visitors per day since it opened on July 7. It will be on view until November 4.