A replica is the repetition of the original work either made by the artist or, after the artist’s death, authorized by the holders of the artists’ rights. A replica must represent 100% of the original.
Replicas have a legal connotation (it is authorized) and a quality connotation (it is a faithful repetition of the original). In most countries the artist’s rights expire 70 years after the artist’s death, in the case of Frida: in 2024.
Why show replicas of Kahlo’s work?
Frida painted her life; her paintings are like an autobiography on canvas.
To understansd her life, it is essential to be able to see all her paintings. However, exhibitions with originals by Frida are only able to show a maximum of 40 paintings of an estimated 134 she painted because:
-some of her paintings are in her Blue House in Mexico and are not allowed to leave,
-some are privately owned (e.g., Madonna is a Frida Kahlo collector), and some of the owners never lend them for exhibitions,
-the rest are scattered around the world.
The Frida Kahlo collection covers all the paintings, (123), for which there is a documentation in color; it allows the visitors to follow her entire life, from the very beginning as a hobby-painter to the maturity and to her last works before she died. This is only possible with replicas.
Who painted the replicas?
In some countries in the world, art academies teach art by demanding that the art students copy the masters. China and Japan are among them. This copying of the masters is a way to learn art: by copying the masters over and over again, the students learn not only the masters’ techniques but the spirit behind the creation of the painting as well.
Four experienced Chinese artists replicated Frida Kahlo in Beijing during 2008 and 2009. They do not copy paintings for a living, they are artists known in Beijing for their own work.
They live and work in the largest artist community in the world: Song Zhuang, one hour east of Beijing. The curators selected Chinese artists because of the disciplined culture of faithfully replicating masters that Chinese artists have.
The artists are between 38 and 42 years old with proven outstanding technical and creative skills.
The curators would have loved to have the replicas made in Mexico, which has a long tradition of exceptional art quality, but they work and live in Beijing so they selected artists from Beijing. The process of painting replicas requires a daily follow up, monitoring and working very closely together with the artists.