Mexico City Museums and Galleries
Museum of Modern Art
Av. Paseo de la Reforma, Bosque de Chapultepec
Mexico City's Museum of Modern Art sits on the eastern edge of Chapultepec Park. The domed modernist building with its permanent collection of Mexican masters—Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Rufino Tamayo—inventive exhibits, and sculpture garden is a delight.
Museo de Antropología
Av. Paseo de la Reforma & Calzada Gandhi, Bosque de Chapultepec
For anyone who's even remotely interested in pre-Hispanic culture, this museum is a must. It houses many of the most important findings from archaeological digs across the country, from the original Aztec calendar which was unearthed in Mexico City, to enormous monolithic stone Olmec heads from Veracruz, to all the treasures found in the Mayan tomb of Pakal in Palenque. Meanwhile, outside the museum stands an enormous monolith of Tlaloc, the god of rain. Legend has it that when he arrived in Mexico City, there was an almost catastrophic rainstorm. In short, it's a lot to take in, but worth it: It's a 101 crash course into pre-Hispanic culture.
General Francisco Ramírez 12-14, Colonia Ampliación
Tucked away in a residential neighborhood near Chapultepec park, you'll find a handful of homes and gardens designed by Mexico's only Pritzker prize winning architect, Luis Barragan. His home, which he designed in its entirety, from the structure to the furniture to the color palette, is pretty much exactly as he left it and open for reserved tours only. They're generally conducted by lucky architecture students who, aside from showing you around the house, demonstrating his playful tricks with light and optics, are happy to share juicy tidbits about his life. If you get bitten by the Barragan bug—it tends to happen—they'll also hook you up with the contact information for some of the other local houses he designed like Casa Engstrom and Casa Gilardi. Though they're not open to the public, the owners sometimes let visitors in for pre-arranged visits.
Museo Mural Diego Rivera
Balderas y Colón, Centro Histórico
While it's host to temporary exhibitions on contemporary artists and muralists, the whole point of visiting this teensy museum is to see one of Diego Rivera's most famous murals, Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Central, which survived the building that housed it in the 1985 earthquake that ravaged the city. Like in many of his murals, it's a Marxist critique of the upper-echelons of the ruling class, and history buffs get their kicks from trying to identify all the historical figures he painted in, Frida included. Located in the Centro Histórico, it's a quick, easy stop on a full day of sightseeing in the area.
Museo Frida Kahlo
Londres 247, Coyoacán
Frida may be Mexico's most famous icon, making her home, the Casa Azul, a must-see destination. Tucked away in pretty, colonial, Coyoacan is the house where she grew up and eventually came to rest. After she died, Diego Rivera with whom she had a tempestuous marriage, donated her house to the government and it opened as a museum in the late '50s. Not only are many of her most famous works housed here, but many of the rooms are exactly as she left them. One of the highlights is definitely her kitchen and the adjacent dining room—she was a great chef, too—which are decorated in Mexican folk handicrafts she collected from around the country, and a traditional, wood-fired oven where she cooked legendary banquets. Diego asked that one room remain untouched, and when it was finally opened in 2004, they found a treasure trove of her clothes. A few choice garments are on display until December 2016, in a small but stunning little exhibition.
Museo 150, Coyoacán
Muralist Diego Rivera was a major collector of pre-hispanic artefacts, and the Anahucalli, built out of volcanic stone and designed by Diego Rivera himself, houses all 60,000 pieces he acquired from archaeological digs across the country. The collection is as impressive as the building itself which Rivera designed as his studio with advice from none other than his pen pal, Frank Lloyd Wright, which incorporates pre-hispanic motifs while trying to meld into the local surroundings as much as possible. The best time to visit is around Day of the Dead (November 2nd), when the museum puts together one of the most awesome ofrendas, with thousands of marigold petals, sugar skulls, candles, and regional folk art.
Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo
Av. Altavista esq. Diego Rivera, San Angel
This is one of the main stops on the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo pilgrimage, as they lived in this home on and off for twenty years. Their muralist friend Juan O'Gorman designed the now iconic house specifically for them, with separate buildings for each, united by a drawbridge between the two (they notoriously needed a lot of space from one another). It's a quick stop that's mostly worth it for the architecture, with a small temporary exhibition space, a few rooms dedicated to both artists, and Diego's studio, where he made many of his most famous paintings surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows and huge paper maché Judas sculptures.
Córdoba 100, Colonia Roma
If there's one gallery to watch now it's OMR. Opened by husband and wife Jaime Riestra and Patricia Ortiz-Monasterio in the 80's on a quiet plaza in the Colonia Roma, it has since established itself as one of the major Mexican galleries on the international arts scene. This year, it's opening a new space on Córdoba 100, and their son Cristobal is taking over. With a roster of both local and international heavyweights like Candida Höfer, James Turrell, Pia Camil, and Jorge Méndez Blake, we're curious to see what Cristobal, who is known for curating some of their more cutting-edge contemporary shows, has in store.
Galería Nina Menocal
Rafael Rebollar #56, Colonia Condesa
The Cuban-born Nina Menocal is the legendary force who has propelled the careers of many contemporary Mexican and Cuban artists and curators, among them the now legendary Felix Gonzalez-Torres, who she showed in Mexico in the early 1990's. Aside from presenting the work of established international artists like Rosa Brun and Atelier Morales, Menocal also organizes small buying trips to Cuba for serious collectors. The gallery is by appointment only. Photograph by Patrick Pettersson
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra # 303, Polanco
The David Chipperfield designed Museo Jumex opened in 2013 during the annual MUCA art fair, making a big splash on the international art scene. Opened by Eugenio López Alonso, the owner of the major juice company by the same name, it houses his private collection of contemporary art, which includes pieces from Robert Gober, Dan Graham, Gabriel Orozco, Vanessa Beecroft, and more. Aside from all the big-name exhibitions, the cool thing about The Fundación Jumex is that it's seriously investing in the local scene, sponsoring and commissioning works by local artists and supporting local arts publications, galleries, and initiatives. The much smaller, appointment-only Gallery, the original outlet for Lopez Alonso's collection, is a bit of trek out of town but worth it for more cutting-edge, often site-specific exhibitions, along with a growing library dedicated to contemporary art.