Frida Kahlo scholars say discovery of 'astonishing lost archive' is a fake

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More than half a century after her death, the Mexican surrealist who had Leon Trotsky and Josephine Baker as lovers and Diego Rivera as her husband, soulmate and tormenter-in-chief, is at the centre of a new controversy.

Fittingly for an artist who insisted, "I paint my own reality", the latest row over Frida Kahlo revolves around truth and authenticity.

Princeton Architectural Press, which will soon publish a book of Kahlo's oil paintings, diary entries and personal letters, says it has stumbled across "an astonishing lost archive of one of the 20th century's most revered artists … full of ardent desires, seething fury, and outrageous humour."

But news of the discovery has prompted a group of Kahlo scholars to denounce the items – which belong to an antique-dealing Mexican couple who bought them from a lawyer who got them from a woodcarver who claimed to have got them from Kahlo – as fakes.

They also urged Mexico's National Council for Culture and the Arts and the National Institute of Fine Arts to protect the work of one of its favourite daughters and "to put a stop to this type of fraud and clarify the situation".

Others have been less temperate in their response. "It's a silly book," said Mary-Anne Martin, a New York-based Latin American art dealer who has sold many of Kahlos works. "But it has been put together very carefully and very cleverly. It is full of biographical material that would appeal to people into Kahlo and her relationship with Rivera, her feminism and her communism. Those bits have been created to that end."

Martin admitted that she had not personally seen the collection, adding: "This is not the kind of thing that any expert or any person who is reasonably knowledgable about Frida Kahlo would make the trip for."

"If I had to jump on a plane every time somebody made a fake painting, I would never get any work done."

The owner of the contested discovery, Carlos Noyola, runs an antique shop with his partner, Leticia Fernández, in San Miguel de Allende, central Mexico. He appears convinced of the authenticity of his 1,200-piece collection.

"We did acquire the collection with the belief and some groundwork done to prove that it is in fact authentic and thus paid accordingly," he told the Art Newspaper, adding that the collection was not – and never would be – for sale...

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