Mexico City Museums and Galleries
Archivo de Diseño y Arquitectura
Calle Francisco Ramirez Garza, Colonia Ampliación
Housed next to Casa Luis Barragan (he designed the gardens here), this design gallery and archive hosts small, tightly curated exhibitions on everyday design—everything from the evolution of Oaxacan pottery, to the role of the "copy" in design, to cycling in Mexico City. Aside from the exhibitions, the space itself is a pretty, peaceful respite from the city streets in this little residential pocket of architectural delights. Owner architect Fernando Romero has big plans for the gallery, though, which will be housed in a much splashier space in the years to come.
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.
Galería Nina Menocal
Rafael Rebollar #56, Colonia San Miguel Chapultepec
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
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.
Gob. Rafael Rebollar 94, San Miguel Chapultepec
Monica Manzutto and her husband José Kuri's gallery is probably the first to roll off anyone's tongue when talking about the contemporary art scene in Mexico. Together with their pal Gabriel Orozco, probably Mexico's most famous contemporary artist, in the early 2000's they came up with the idea of presenting the work of their contemporaries in pop-up spaces all over the city (and the world). Of course, nowadays, those artists—among them, Daniel Guzmán, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Damián Ortega—are big names and so is Kurimanzutto, which settled into a gorgeous gallery space in 2008, with quite the roster of local and international artists. Don't miss this gallery: The exquisite Alberto Kalach-designed space is worth the visit alone—it's one of our favorite examples of contemporary architecture in the city.
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.
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.
Museo de Arte Popular
Revillagigedo 11, Centro Histórico
Housed in a beautifully restored Art Deco building in the Centro Histórico, this museum is home to Mexican folk handicrafts and textiles from around the country. It's a nicely manageable museum and a great place to bring kids, with weekend workshops that teach everything from paper maché to how to make amate paper. Don't miss the museum shop, which is one of the best places to find quality regional crafts.
Museo Dolores Olmedo
Av. México 5843, La Noria, Xochimilco
Dolores Olmedo was one of Diego Rivera's greatest patrons and her home, an ex-hacienda near Xochimilco, houses her collection of his works through the years, along with those of other artists and craftsmen she supported during her lifetime. While the collections are magnificent, and a real window into the breadth of Rivera's talents and career, the expansive grounds themselves—gorgeous native gardens that are home to her beloved hairless Xoloescuintle dogs and a family of peacocks—are a heavenly respite from the city's busy streets. In October and November, the museum puts on an awesome Day of the Dead display, as Doña Lola always did when she was alive.
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