“The highest, the most logical, the purest and strongest form of painting is the mural.”
– José Clemente Orozco
Mexico City has an abundance of museums, including numerous art museums for locals and visitors. I didn’t have much time to enjoy it all, but I made a list of places to visit and even added more to that list as I wandered around.
The two main museums I had to see were the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts) and the Frida Kahlo Museum (more on that in another post). I figured those two museums alone would be enough to satisfy my artistic curiosity for an entire day, but I was wrong.
The problem was that the Palace of Fine Arts had no exhibits while I was in the city — all the exhibition halls were closed, so all I could see were the murals and architecture. That meant that my time in the museum was much shorter than expected, leaving an opportunity to find another artistic endeavor.
Palacio de Bellas Artes
I gazed upon this magnificent building on my first full day in Mexico City. The only reason to ever go to Sears anywhere in the world is for the view of the Palacio de Bellas Artes from the 8th floor while drinking Mexican hot chocolate. That left me with a greater desire to enter the grand museum on the tail end of my trip.
Discovering that all the exhibition halls were closed as they prepared for new exhibits was disappointing. However, I was told that I could still view the murals on each floor — for less than $4, I figured I might as well check it out.
The interior of the Palacio de Bellas Artes is impressive, more so than the murals. While the exterior is neoclassical, the interior is art deco with some indigenous inspiration that I almost missed because I wasn’t looking close enough to the details (blame it on recovering from food poisoning). The architecture alone is worth the price of admission.
Then there are the murals on each floor, most of which were painted by Diego Rivera, though others include David Siqueiros, Rufino Tamayo and José Clemente Orozco. Possibly Rivera’s most impressive work in the museum is the one that welcomes visitors on the second floor — El hombre controlador del universo. It is an enormous mural that is impossible to capture in a photo unless you use the panoramic setting (it seems the Samsung Galaxy S8 does not have that feature, D’oh!).
Most of the artwork on display in the hall of the Palace of Fine Arts have socialist references, some more overt than others. They are also depictions of Mexican history.
On the way out of the museum, I found a statue of Beethoven just outside. I don’t know why they have a monument to the composer in Mexico.
Museo Mural Diego Rivera
After my shorter-than-expected visit to the Palace of Fine Arts, I searched the area for other interesting museums and found the Museo Mural Diego Rivera nearby (it was also near my hotel for added convenience). I figured it might be interesting to check out what works the museum had.
I was again faced with the issue that the exhibition halls were closed. I could, however, pay regular admission to see the single Diego Rivera mural. This is one of his most famous works, Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central (Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Central). Unlike the murals at the Palace of Fine Arts, this one had a guide to all the characters in the mural — it was a Mexican history lesson that included his wife Frida Kahlo and a boyhood version of Diego.
The most interesting story behind the painting is that it was housed in a hotel until 1985 when an earthquake leveled the building. The mural survived and the museum was constructed to preserve the work.
Settling on Street Art
After getting shut out of two art museums in Mexico City, I was ready to quit. I was still a little tired from the food poisoning and not in the mood for exhaustive tourism, so I took a stroll through the city to find quiet corners to enjoy.
I managed to find some public art along the way through the city (some of it was found during my first days in Mexico City). It helps to divert attention away from all the graffiti, though there is some interesting graffiti art around as well.
There’s a lot of interesting murals on buildings as well as sculptures in public spaces. I saw tours that specialized in street art in the city, but I didn’t go on any, partly due to my recovery from illness. I would definitely give one of those art tours a try next time in Mexico City.
Mexico City is certainly an artistic city with beautiful history. This is an art-lover’s destination.