Press Releases

Date of Release: 
Tuesday, October 2, 2018
Contact Info: 

Erika Monroe-Kane, Director of Communications
608.257.0158 x 237 or


October 13, 2018–February 3, 2019

It is fuchsia on the outside and hides the subtlety of a whitish-gray pulp flecked with little black spots that are its seeds inside. This is a wonder! Fruits are like flowers: they speak to us in provocative language and teach us things that are hidden. --Frida Kahlo

MADISON, WI-A centerpiece of the museum’s permanent collection, Pitahayas by Frida Kahlo will be on view in the Imprint Gallery from October 13 through February 3, 2019. The title of the painting, Pitahayas, refers to the five bright, pink fruit resting in the center of the composition. Alongside the painting, a digital experience will be available that shares information about the significance of the artwork’s imagery and the story of how this artwork came to the museum. MMoCA is a partner in Faces of Frida, a digital art project organized by Google Arts & Culture dedicated to commemorating the life and legacy of Kahlo—one of the most important artists of the 20th century. Faces of Fridaprovides online access to a virtual collection of more than 800 items, including artwork images, photographs, and letters. MMoCA is one of the more than 30 cultural institutions, from seven countries, contributing to this project. Museum curator Mel Becker Solomon extensively researched the provenance of Pitahayas and contributed two essays to the project.

Kahlo painted Pitahayas on metal in the style of an ex-voto—a small devotional painting on tin in the Mexican folk art tradition. Ex-voto paintings are typically commissioned by a person giving thanks to a saint or divine entity after suffering from an illness or experiencing a tragedy. The walls of Kahlo’s home and studio, Casa Azul, were covered with hundreds of these devotional paintings. In the style of ex-voto paintings, this unassuming still life can be read as a very personal allusion to her rise from tragedy that culminates in immense gratitude for her life and successful artistic career. Kahlo suffered multiple miscarriages over the course of her life and often depicted vegetation as a symbol of fertility and regeneration. She also drew directly from medical textbooks—here one of the pitahayas is sliced directly in two and mirrors a dissected female reproductive cell, an ovum. The depicted cell is undergoing cellular division or meiosis; errors in this reproductive process are the leading cause of miscarriage. The painting evolved over time, and in 1939, upon her return from France, she learned her husband, artist Diego Rivera, wanted a divorce. Kahlo changed the expression of the skeleton in the painting from a smile to a frown.

Frida Kahlo: Pitahayas is an opportunity to explore a profound work by a significant artist. Much like the pitahaya fruit, with its delicate, fleshy center concealed inside its bright pink exterior, Kahlo embedded a deeply personal history in this vibrant still life. The personal iconography and extensive exhibition history of the painting suggests the work is not only a still life, but an intimate self-portrait of the artist.

Generous funding for Imprint Gallery programs has been provided by Willy Haeberli in memory of Gabriele Haberland.


Housed in a soaring, Cesar Pelli-designed building, the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art provides free exhibitions and education programs that engage people in modern and contemporary art. The museum’s four galleries offer changing exhibitions that feature established and emerging artists. The Rooftop Sculpture Garden provides an urban oasis with an incredible view. The museum is open: Tuesday through Thursday, noon–5 pm; Friday, noon–8 pm; Saturday, 10 am–8 pm; Sunday, noon–5 pm; and is closed on Mondays.    


# # #