Baroness Chakrabarti Reviews “Mexican Geniuses”

Mexican Geniuses: Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera Immersive Experience | Fever

Baroness Chakrabarti

3 minute read

Anodical and commercialized, this virtual exhibition of the work of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, does little justice to the complexity of art or politics

When visiting the Frida Kahlo Blue House museum in Mexico City years ago, a friend sought out the gift shop, only to be told that this decadent concept would be inappropriate. No disappointment awaits those who come to Canada Water to Mexican geniuses “immersive experience” in a poorly signposted warehouse next to the Decathlon hypermarket. It’s almost as if the Forbes-listed owners actively want to deter visitors from the local Bermondsey community. They don’t need to try so hard considering the exorbitant prices (culture but Uber style). Peak VIP access on a Sunday afternoon costs £45. British museums and galleries hold so many world treasures. It is perhaps the most expensive experience of all. It includes a free poster and an additional virtual reality tour with Kahlo and her terrible husband and great artist Diego Rivera; “beyond the grave” but just before the gift shop.

Another bouncer hovered when I looked for the restroom. I guess holograms don’t dream of electric pee

The first bouncer seemed puzzled that I hadn’t arrived with an access code on my smart phone. He eventually directed me to a pop-up box office marked “cloakroom”. Bless the friendly but amazed young lady who couldn’t believe her own prices. Another bouncer hovered when I looked for the restroom. I guess holograms don’t dream of electric pee.

Then for immersion. The first room is dedicated to Rivera – desde luego. It’s a fairly conventional virtual exhibition of digital prints of his work underwritten with innocuous descriptions that do little justice to the complexity of art, politics, or life. Then we find the magical, realistic portrayals of his long-suffering wife of pain, sex, gender, and loneliness. His paintings are as fresh as if they had been imagined yesterday. His famous murals and other pieces seem more of their time. As this is an immersion, not an exhibition, in the place of the original art or artifacts, we see a wireless replica, corset, chairs, and projections of the paintings.

The main event is a very large room with plenty of beanbags, so those who are flexible enough to drop so low and get back up can kick back and watch some sort of frenetic, repetitive animated biopic. A man and a woman gently tease each other in English Speedy Gonzales. Very loud music is sub-Broadway. Think Frozen Frida or Wicked Diego. Then head to the VIP room, fitted out like a bar with high stools. I put on a rubber helmet after severe warnings not to move it lest it reset and start again. Blue and pink bubbles represented the souls of the artist’s lovers as we joined them in the afterlife, greeted by an animated depiction of their death-cloaked baby girl who was never to be.

I left the experience with a headache and looking forward to a good celebration of Frida. So I went home to look for Salma Hayek’s 2002 film. I could only find it on Amazon Prime for £3.50. In these trying times, Kahlo’s inspiring life and work should be made more readily available.

Baroness Chakrabarti is a Labor peer

Mexican Geniuses: Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s Immersive Experience
Location: Canada Water, London Docklands
Appointment: Until July 31

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