Make sure you have enough time to explore the great art, folk art and museums of Mexico City. You will love the works ranging from that of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to Rufina Tamayo and Jose Clemente Orozco.
Palacio Nacional: The National Palace is best known for its great mural, above the main staircase, painted by Diego Rivera between 1929 and 1935 in the aftermath of the Revolution. This, along with a series of smaller murals, depicts the artist’s view of Mexican history. It shows the struggles of the pre-Colombian people, independence leaders and revolutionaries against the capitalists and colonialists. I have seen this twice and it is really impressive.
Secretaria de Educacion Publica, Republica de Argentina 28: This building is not to be missed. Once a former convent, it has three levels of murals by Diego Rivera. There is also a large mural by David Alfaro Siqueiros in a large staircase which I also liked. But the Rivera murals were exceptional.
Sanborns Francisco Madero 4: Make sure you stop for a meal or coffee at the Casas de los Azulejos. This is a 16th century house of blue tiles, on the outside, that now houses the original Sanborns restaurant and store. The covered, light-filled courtyard is most attractive and a great place to enjoy a meal or snack. There is also a mural by Jose Clemente Orozco on the landing of the staircase.
Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso, Justo Sierra 16: This building, a former Jesuit seminary, contains murals by the great painters, Rivera, Orozco and Siqueiros. There is also exhibition space for current art exhibitions.
Museo de Arte Popular, Revillagigedo 11: Opened in the last few years, this a must see if you love Mexican folk art. It has three floors of exhibits and a store which has a great selection of folk art you can buy.
Museo Dolores Olmedo: Located at Ave Mexico 5843, Xochimilco, this is a not to be missed museum located in a beautiful 17th century mansion. It is the largest private collection of works by Diego Rivera. There are 137 works by Rivera, 25 by Frida Kahlo and more than 600 pre-Colombian artifacts. The art is great and the grounds, with many peacocks, are lovely.
Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexicano (UNAM): Make sure to stop by UNAM, constructed from 1950 to 1952, for a visit to see the Central Library, its most famous building, with all four sides covered by the mosaics of Juan O’Gorman. If time permits see La Rectoria with its 3D mural by David Alfaro Siquieros, Olympic Stadium from 1968 with a Diego Rivera Mosaic above the main entrance. It is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Museo Estudio Diego Rivera: It is located in San Angel at the corner of Calle Diego Rivera and Alta Vista. Make sure to visit the houses designed by Juan O’Gorman for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. You can see his studio still with many of his possessions. There is a rooftop bridge connecting the two homes where Frida used to bring Diego his meals.
Museo Frida Kahlo, Londres 247, Coyoacan: This Museum is not to be missed. Also known as Casa Azul, or Blue House, this is the house where Frida was born and lived most of her life and eventually died. She shared the house with Diego Rivera as well. The house is filled with her art as well as collections of Mexican handicrafts, pottery and other items. The collection is really wonderful to see!
Museo Rufino Tamayo: This museum is housed in a very attractive modern building and showcases the work of Tamayo and other contemporary Mexican artists. I was disappointed that there were no Tamayo pieces on display. Check the website before going. Paseo de la Reforma No. 51.
Museo de Arte Moderno: The Modern Art Museum houses a collection of contemporary art in an attractive 1960’s building. One of the best paintings is the painting by Frida Kahlo of the “Two Fridas”, a double portrait. Paseo de la Reforma and Gandhi.
Palacio de Bellas Artes, Avenida Juarez: This is one of the most beautiful buildings in the Historic Center. It was completed in 1934 as a national theater. Go to the second and third floors to view the murals of Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Rufino Tamayo. Rivera’s Man, the Controller of the Universe, takes revenge on John D. Rockefeller who destroyed his mural in Rockefeller Center due to its socialist undertones.
Museo Mural de Diego Rivera, corner of Colon and Plaza Solidaridad: This a small museum that contains one of Diego Rivera’s greatest masterpieces, Dream of an Afternoon in Alameda Central. It was painted for the Hotel Prado dining room in 1947 and was later moved to this location when the hotel was demolished. Its colors are really amazing. This is a must see!
Casa Luis Barraģan, General Francisco Ramirez 14, 5515-4908: If you love architecture, don’t miss the home and studio of Luis Barraģan, one of the famous Mexican modernist architects. The house was built between 1947 and 1949. He designed the house and much of the furniture inside. From this standpoint there are many similarities between Barraģan and Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago and Charles Rennie Mackntosh in Glasgow Scotland. It shows his synthesis of the modern and traditional resulting in a timeless style. His use of color was outstanding and there are vivid pinks and yellows throughout. The house is exactly as he left it, with the books still on the shelves. This house has been designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Museo Universitario Arte Contemporaneo, Museum of Contemporary Art Unam, or MUAC: I explored this attractive contemporary art museum on the UNAM Campus in the southern part of the city. There were several good temporary exhibitions on display. There is an attractive restaurant on the lower level as well as a bookstore.
Museo Universitario del – Chopo Art Museum: Located at Dr. Enrique Gonzalez Martinez 10, Col Santa Maria la Ribera, this is also a contemporary art museum that is part of UNAM that is in the downtown area. I saw the building featured in an architecture exhibition in Puebla so I wanted to see it. This is a wonderful space that hosts temporary contemporary art exhibits. Even if you don’t spend much time looking at the art, just enjoy the great space. There is a small café and bookstore/museum shop.
Museo Soumaya: This is Carlos Slim’s new museum in Mexico City located at Plaza Carso, Blvd. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra 303, Col. Ampliacion Granada. It was opened in late March early April 2011. The architecture of the building is really incredible and is worth the visit alone. The collection is very diverse. Starting at the top you see many sculptures by Rodin and Dali, followed by pre-Hispanic pieces and works by Mexican muralists, Siqueiros, Orozco, Rivera, Tamayo and Montenegro. You then have European works of the French Impressionists and others from Renoir, Monet, Manet, Toulouse Lautrec, Degas, Van Gogh, Chagall and Miro to old European Masters from Hals, el Greco, Rubens, Murillo, Cranach and Tintoretto. The works are interesting, not amazing, but it is well worth the visit. Admission is free!
Palacio de Cultural Banamex, Placio de Iturbide, Madero 17, Centro Historico: Having seen similar museums in San Miguel de Allende and Merida, in the Yucatan, I was interested in visiting this museum with a focus on folk art. As a collector, myself, I really enjoyed the collection and was pleased that many of the artists I have personally collected were represented. There are displays of pottery and ceramics, wood, silver, leather, paper and textiles. Most of the works were from Mexico, but there were some works from Peru, Guatemala, Brasil and other Central and South American countries represented. Though crowded, I had a great experience and highly recommend it.
Museo Franz Mayer: This is a lovely decorative arts museum located on the other side of Bellas Artes from the Zocalo. It has a wonderful collection of furniture, paintings, silver and ceramics. Hidalgo 45.
Museo Jumex: Next to the Sumaya museum, this is a new museum opened by the Jumex Corporation in late 2013. It is located in a very contemporary building with three floors of exhibition space which features contemporary art exhibitions on a rotating basis. They do have a small café on the first floor. I would recommend seeing both museums while you are in town. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedro 303.
Casa Lamm: This is a beautiful cultural center found in the middle of Col. Roma. It was originally built in the early 1900’s. Today it has been expanded to include two levels of gallery space. There is a gorgeous, contemporary restaurant called Nueve Nueve on the premises. Alvaro Obregon #99
MODO/Museo del Objeto del Objeto: At Colima 145 in Col. Roma, this is a small museum focused on design and communication with exhibits focusing on fashion, advertising, graphic arts and packaging.