Mexico City has been a hub for culture and the arts since the time of the Aztecs. In the modern day, the people of Mexico City are exposed to the arts on a daily basis through architecture, colorful markets, public artworks, galleries and globally renowned museums sprinkled through its very large city limits.
ZsONA MACO and Material Art Fair has Mexico City attracting a slew of artistic hobnobbing en español, offering insight and artistic mastery to the thousands of visitors who will descend upon the city in the coming week (February 3rd-7th). With that in mind, it’s also essential to explore the spots beyond the fair’s gates thatare absolutamente espectacular! I’ll give you a local’s perspective (and some institutional gossip) on why these are worth checking out. Here are my top spots within and beyond la ZsONA MACO, also flagged on our customized Citymaps, so that you can make the most of your art stay in Mexico City.
(Local Insider tip: Traffic is insane here, so add 30 minutes to any Uber App commute during the day and one hour if you’re driving around within rush hour, 5PM-9PM. De nada!)
San Miguel de Chapultepec, near la Condesa:
Kurimanzutto – One of the coolest, most transformative spaces specializing in showcasing installation art, the space alone is a major reason to visit. It is very non-Mexico City in that you don’t often see the exposed beams and sparse asian or eastern minimalism in Mexico city, so that is quite refreshing. This gallery lives in a prism of Brooklyn Warehouse meets Asian Zen Garden meets serious avant-garde gallery. It serves as a visual and energetic palate cleanser after the myriad of colors from the shows and the lively Mexico City streets.
Let There Be Art Gallery (LTBAG) – The edgy, cool kid where all things must unite at the crux chic and fashion gallery, this venue explores the concept of art existing as a “must-have” accessory and always very fun to check out when I’m in the D.F. Oops, I mean, Cuidad de Mexico. There’s a Michel Comte photography show there right now, which I strongly recommend.
Galeria Enrique Guerrero – This is one of the great galleries in Mexico City. This season they will be celebrating the inauguration of their new space with a group show featuring the collective works of Manuel Cerda, Daniela Edburg, Felipe Ehrenberg, Hector Falcón, Adela Goldbard, Daniel Gómez, Pablo Helguera, Yui Kugimiya, Miguel Ángel Madrigal, Colectivo Mangle, Mauro Piva, Carolina Ponte, Tony Solis, Richard Stipl, Pedro Varela and Beatriz Zamora.
Galeria Casa Lamm – Located in La Roma, this “Center of Culture” is a charming place to visit and take in the nice atmosphere. The neighborhood is typical Beaux Arts architecture (this gallery has a nice splash of modern as well) with a lovely sculpture garden for the perfect afternoon coffee. I also recommend scoping out the bookstore.
Galeria Art Space – Or the epitome of chic. It is not the most typical portrayal of a ‘Mexican Art Gallery’ and for that I enjoy visiting it whenever I’m in Mexico. They are all about the emerging artist so go there to get slapped in the face with some controversy, if that’s how you like it. Jesús Jiménez is an artist to look out for on show here.
Galeria Óscar Roman – This trendy gallery provides a beautiful experience with every visit. They are all about promoting innovative works in line with international trends but with that comes a certain risk and “neo-conceptual” independent definition to the artistic landscape. They also show some Colonial Art as well and is generally rated as one of the best galleries in Mexico City. My favorite piece by Uruguayan-born, Mexico City-based artist Santiago Diaz Guichón, is shown here.
Parque de Chapultepec – Represents the true glory of what Mexico City has had and still offers as a major global city. One of the park’s many icons, Castillo de Chapultepec—besides being a rad castle—has been a Military Academy, an Imperial Residence, a Presidential home, Observatory and, presently, the National Museum of History complete with original bedrooms and all. As the largest concentrated green area in the very urban Mexico City, Parque de Chapultepec also has the Zólogico, the Casa del Lago, el Museo de Arte Moderno, and el Museo Rufino Tamayo. The latter is their international contemporary art museum and, again, the architecture here is insane. What Mexicans know how to do with concrete…me encanta!
El Museo Nacional de Antropolgia is further down on Reforma and technically part of Polanco, but it faces the park so go ahead and kill a couple birds and do it all in one jaunt on an ecobici. This is one of the most important museums in the world, so please don’t miss it. As basically a “Pre-Columbian and Meso-American Art for Dummies,” it’s full of as much Aztec art, history, and life-size representations that you could ever want. And GOLD. Lots of Gold.
Fundación Jumex Arte Contemporáneo – This museum might be a hit or miss depending on the collection currently there, but it is a really beautiful SPACE. Mexican modern architecture at its best. And the coffee shop is CHIC. Like, La Colombe in NYC meets something German. It’s also across the street from el Museo Sumaya, which is very cool from the outside, and is OK on the inside. The top floor of this museum is usually the best; speed through the rest of it.
El Centro Historico:
El Zócalo – The Zócalo is like the center town square of Mexico City, an amazing historical place where you can see so much of the culture of Mexico City—mostly for free. See the sinking cathedral (Cathedral de la Cuidad de Mexico) that was built with stones from the Templo Mayor (discovered several blocks away by workers building a subway line in the late 70s). They were the central temples of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire when the Spaniards arrived in 1521. Explore inside the Palacio National, located in the Zócalo, where there are amazing original murals by Diego Rivera, Jean Charlot, Fernando Leal, Ramón Alva, Fermin Revueltas, José Clemente Orozco.
El Palacio de Bellas Artes (Centro Historical de Mexico) – Bellas Artes is like a European opera house, with concerts as well as murals by Diego Rivera. If you’re lucky, you can see the Tiffany Glass curtain (made from stained glass) that is the backdrop of the magnificent stage.
Casa Azul – This museum is the intimate universe of Frida, dedicated to her art exclusively. You’ll even see her bed where she painted her most famous self-portraits while bound in her body casts. This house is small and intimate so I recommend you go in the morning before the crowds get too intense (perhaps on a Saturday when you can also see el Bazar del Sábado where you can buy local crafts, silver and, most importantly, see the wonderful colors in the work of local artists that gather there to sell).
Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo – This is where Frida and Diego lived. Diego Rivera had these two twin houses built next to each other and connected by a bridge.
Museo Diego Rivera or Anahuacalli – People like it because he is like a god for Mexico, given his incredible patrimony. Built from the volcanic rock that was originally found on site, you’ll get the feeling of visiting the pyramids. It was originally a project that Rivera set out to create to house his pre-Colombian art and consulted with Frank Lloyd Wright.
Museo Dolores Olmedo – This museum, a former host to an international impressionist global tour, is also a must-see. Dolores “Lola” Olmedo was a Mexican art collector and muse of artists like Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco. Her former home, housing her personal collection, is one of the most interesting places to view art in Mexico City today. It’s like an oasis that transports you to another time as peacocks roam the garden, providing a unique way of experiencing art. As a good friend of Frida Kahlo’s, the museum includes the best collection of Kahlo works that you’ll ever see in one place.
So there you have it! A detailed guide brought to you by Citymaps and yours truly, exploring the top art destinations and hidden gems in Mexico City.
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