(I just noticed that this is my 100th entry in this blog. A hundred days of travel in four years!)
Today I got another high-octane culture injection: after working through the anthropology museums, today I went to art museums!
The first on my list was the Palacio de Bellas Artes, an impressive turn of the century building that sits on the Alameda Central park. On the outside it’s an impressive stone Neoclassical construction with a colourful, tiled dome, but on the inside it’s fully Art Nouveau. Indeed, it looks as if not a single nail has been touched since the 20s: from the wall fixtures to the lamps to the entrance signs, they would only need to clear the people and they’d be able to shoot a Great Gatsby movie right here and now.
The interior design is well served by the architecture, as the beautiful central lobby showcases the murals on all three floors that open to it. These murals, however, are the entirety of the museum’s permanent collection: most of the three floors are used for auditoriums and conferences and other ad-hoc spaces, with only half of a floor devoted to the current temporary exhibition. This time the exhibition was dedicated to Diego Rivera and Pablo Picasso, specifically the time Rivera spent in Paris painting Cubism. After having seen Rivera’s murals, it was interesting to see his Cubist works that indeed looked like they could have been signed by Braque or Juan Gris.
The visit didn’t take very long, so next up I walked a few minutes to the Museo de las Artes Populares, which focuses on folkloric art: traditional clothes, religious festivals, toys… After all the clay and sandstone of the Aztec exhibits, it was fun and refreshing to see these galleries filled with colourful and vibrant objects. In the MAP there are three floors with two galleries each, and they are divided by theme: clothing, religion, fantastic beasts… Each space is designed and curated differently, so it’s a very entertaining visit. I liked a display of dragons and nahuatl, and also a small room of partying skeletons and sugar skulls as a kind of festive model necropolis.
Also, the museum store is awesome -they have a little bit of everything related to traditional Mexican crafts. A great place to buy omiyage for the people back home!
Here I ducked into a bakery café for a quick lunch. It had been drizzling all morning, but as soon as I started eating it started pouring for real. I had considered going to one of the hip neighbourhoods for the afternoon, to break it up a bit, but it didn’t seem very feasible if it was going to keep raining. So instead I decided to go to Frida Kahlo’s museum, another of the must-sees in Mexico City and a perfect followup for an artistic day.
The Kahlo house is in Coyoacán, which is far from the centre, so you kind of have to make the trip there just for the museum (my guidebook said to take a walk around the neighbourhood to make the most of it but it didn’t look all that interesting to me). I took the metro to the Coyoacán stop, and after that I still had a 10 or 15 minute walk to the museum. When I finally arrived at the iconic deep-blue house, there was a queue, as indeed there is always a queue (I’m told it’s especially dire on weekends). It wasn’t very large but it moved slowly. I could have bought my ticket for a specific time slot online and saved myself the wait, but since it was a spur of the moment decision I had to eat a half-hour queue. Oh well! I had the time and it had stopped raining.
At $200 a ticket (€10) it is the priciest museum I’ve been to in Mexico, and it’s very small, but it’s a delightful place. The outside walls are all blue, the courtyard has a fountain and lots of plants, and the interiors are dedicated to exhibiting works by Frida Kahlo and the furniture and decoration of the home. There are only two small rooms with paintings, and then you can visit the home’s kitchen, bedrooms, and the study, all of which have all the original furnishings and really look like Frida and Diego could step inside in any moment.
There’s a store with all things Frida, and also there was a temporary exhibition about Frida’s clothes, with several of her dresses on display. Despite the shortness of the visit, the small size of the exhibits (after all it is a house), it is very much worth making the trip to Coyoacán, as the space really captures the essence of the artist: it is surrealist, it is in pain, it is passionate, it is artistic, it is tender… Unique.
To top off the day, I made my way to Colima to have dinner at Lucas Local, a stylishly decorated restaurant with a very eclectic menu. Mostly I just let the natives order everything, but I did ask to try the stuffed pepper, to see how different it was from those of the old country; and the answer is, very! It came with a taco and avocado cream! We had a grand old time and were already wrapping up when the restaurant inexplicably introduced a standup act -a lady who took a mic, yelled into it, effectively prevented us from talking anymore, and whose act was just awful; not just as in unfunny, but also pretty racist (and not in a Sarah Silverman kind of way). It’s a good thing we were about to leave anyway, and other than that everything went swimmingly.
I need to decide what to do with myself tomorrow. Is it bad if I just rest all day and like go to the movies? I’ll have to crank open the guidebook again!