In Miami, was a $ 10 million piece of art by Frida Kahlo burned to sell NFT?

A businessman burned what he claims to be an original Frida Kahlo drawing on July 30 in Miami before selling it as an NFT. The Instituto nacional de bellas artes y literatura of Mexico has opened an investigation.

After Banksy went up in smoke by dealers in 2021 and the recent death sentence of nearly 5,000 works by Damien Hirst by the same artist, should physical works of art be burned to sell digital versions? This is the bet that Mexican businessman Martin Mobarak, creator of the cryptocurrency AGCoin, made by setting fire to Fantasmone Siniestro (1944), presented as an original drawing by Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), on July 30 at a private event at her Miami mansion. The collector immortalized the launch of the sale of 10,000 NFT, presumably for charity, and the physical destruction of the work for $ 10 million in a video that spread the controversy. On Monday, Mexico’s Instituto nacional de bellas artes y literatura, the country’s highest cultural authority, said it was investigating the case, with Frida Kahlo’s works listed as national treasures in Mexico: the deliberate destruction of an artistic monument constitutes an offense under the Federal Law on Archaeological, Artistic and Historical Monuments and Areas “, He recalled in a statement.

A controversial video for the strange staging of a scandal

I hope those here understand that this is to help sick children and victims of domestic violence. “He defends Martin Mobarak in his controversial video. After an introductory message about the event and the launch of “ Frida.nft “, This project that calls itself” innovative and pioneering blockchain technology that reforms the charity sector to increase the transparency and frequency of donations “, The images show an animation that specifies” Frida Kahlo, the life of an icon (even if the video does not have much to do with the artist’s biography …) before moving on to the images of the evening in a montage that is not the most successful. Sequence in the kitchens, improvised parade by the pool, images of people with smartphones in their hands… the rare elements that refer to the Mexican painter are a shot of an open book and another that immortalizes the back of an embroidered denim jacket.

Screenshot from Youtube video showing Martin Mobarak smiling in front of Frida Kahlo drawing fire. © Youtube / FridaNFT

A minute before the end of the video, the destruction of the drawing (carried in a cloth bag and kept in a frame that seems very cheap for a work of this value) is staged at the edge of this same pool. Martin Mobarak retires Fantasmone Siniestro from its frame, he puts it in a martini glass before setting it on fire as a band of mariachis start singing and the crowd cheers at the stake. ” The work has been transferred to the metaverse “, Specifies the Frida.nft website. As part of his project, Martin Mobarak wants to mint 10,000 NFT of the design at the price of 3 Ethereum each (around 4100 euros today) and donate part of the profits to charities and institutions such as the Frida Kahlo Museum and the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Città of Mexico or the Craniofacial Association of Children. But hi. Mexico’s Instituto nacional de bellas artes y literatura denied the donation to the Palacio de Bellas Artes and the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Museums Trust told British media: “ Subway »I have never heard of the project.

Casa Azul by Frida Kahlo.  © Flickr / Lin Mei

The Casa Azul, Museo Frida Kahlo in Mexico City. © Flickr / Lin Mei

A dubious source

And this is not the only questionable point of this imperfect operation. If, on the Frida.nft website, visitors are presented with a certificate of authenticity signed by the Mexican art dealer Andrés Siegel, the provenance of the work remains uncertain to say the least. In fact, the drawing (originally double-sided) originally comes from Frida Kahlo’s diary. The artist gave it to Venezuelan art critic Juan Röhl, then joined the New York gallery Mary-Anne Martin Fine Art. The latter sold it in 2004 to the Vergel Foundation and then in 2013 to a private collection, according to magazine ” Vice “.

If the existence of the work is not questioned, it was presented at least twice in the 2010 Kahlo retrospective at the Gropius Bau and during the 2012-2013 traveling exhibition “Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics & Paintings” organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario, High Museum of Art and Dolores Olmedo Museum in Mexico, the identity of the latest buyer does not seem to match. Martin Mobarak claims to have acquired the work in 2015 for $ 10 million from Mary-Anne Martin, however the art dealer told the magazine ” Vice Which she had not sold him Fantasmone Siniestro and that she had never heard of him until last week.

Faced with these inconsistencies and following the scandal, the Instituto nacional de bellas artes y literatura is currently collecting all the information on the combustion of drawing ” to establish with certainty that it is the destruction of an original work or a reproduction “Whether it is actually a federal crime or just a fairly successful publicity stunt, Frida.nft’s success remains quite mixed to this day. According to the English-language media, Artnet News »And the Ethereum analysis platform« etherscan “, Only four of the Fantasmone Siniestro they found buyers.

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