While plans to build a modern art museum overlooking Guadalajara’s Barranca de Huentitan (canyon) advance at a snail’s pace, Mexico City offers up a smorgasbord of choices for art lovers to indulge in their obsession.
In recent years, two new players have entered the capital’s flourishing museum/gallery market, both showcasing the private collections of the rich and famous and both located in swanky Plaza Carso, in the heart of the Nuevo Polanco district.
Fine examples of the best modern architecture the capital now presents to the world, the Museo Soumaya and Museo Jumex have been referred to as ideal “refuges” from the urban noise of the megalopolis that is Mexico City.
Described as “a trapezoid in motion,” the enigmatic non-profit Museo Soumaya was designed by maverick young Mexican architect Fernando Romero. It was funded by telecoms magnate and philanthropist Carlos Slim – the world’s second richest man – and houses much of his personal art collection.
The distinctive building is named after Soumaya Domit Gemayel, Slim’s late wife, who died in 1999. The six-story edifice is covered by 16,000 hexagonal aluminum tiles and, according to world architecture.org, is “conceived as a rotating sculptural block that creates an organic and asymmetrical shape that is both an object and a part of the city.”
Visitors wind their way up and down ramps rather than stairs to visit the various floors housing examples of the decorative arts, works by European and colonial old masters, Impressionists, as well as temporary exhibits. The top floor – one of the most visited – features Slim’s extensive collection of casts by French sculptor Auguste Rodin, along with surrealist sculptures by Salvador Dalí.
European art from the 15th to the 20th century is the major focus of the museum, and eagle-eyed visitors and art connoisseurs should quickly identify works by the likes of Renoir, Miro, Van Gogh, Matisse, Monet, da Vinci, El Greco and other notables.
Situated directly across from the Soumaya is the impressive Museo Jumex, which opened in 2013. The space, designed by British architect David Chipperfied, houses examples from the huge Coleccion Jumex, an extraordinary assemblage of over 2,000 works by international and Mexican contemporary artists, such as Damien Hirst, Andy Warhol, Gabriel Orozco, Cy Twombly, Jeff Koons, Andreas Gursky, Darren Almond and Francis Alÿs.
The museum primarily houses works collected over several decades by Eugenio López Alonso, the visionary son of the founder of the Jumex fruit juice empire, who spent his time studying contemporary art while also traveling and researching how to put together a collection that would encourage the development of artists of his generation in Mexico.
The building features walls of concrete and locally sourced white travertine, as well as a sawtooth roof that brings natural light into the top floor galleries. The architect’s aim was to “bathe the art” in natural light in a “space that is generous but not monumental.”
Since moving into the upmarket Polanco neighborhood four years ago, the museum has extended its opening hours and now schedules a full series of year-round temporary exhibits.
Entry to the Museo Soumaya is free of charge. Cost of entry to the Museo Jumex is 50 pesos (30 pesos for Mexican nationals). For more information, see soumaya.com.mx and fundacionjumex.org.