British Council Architecture Design Fashion

Menu Show search

Mexico travelogue #3

The new Museo Jumex designed by David Chipperfield PHOTO: JOÃO GUARANTANI


The new Museo Jumex designed by David Chipperfield
17th century silver eucharistic urn at Museo Franz Mayer PHOTO: JOÃO GUARANTANI


17th century silver eucharistic urn at Museo Franz Mayer


Museo Soumaya


Museo Rufino Tamayo
The iconic Central Library building at UNAM PHOTO: JOÃO GUARANTANI


The iconic Central Library building at UNAM

In his third report from Mexico City, João Guarantani explores the role of museums and educational institutions as well as independent curators and practitioners in shaping the cultural landscape of the Mexican capital.

The rest of my week in Mexico City involves various visits and meetings at some of the city’s main museums: Museo Franz Meyer, Mexico’s most important applied arts museum, where I was received by the Director, Hector Rivero Borrell – with a collection of pieces spanning Mexico’s colonial period to today, the museum has a busy programme of around 15 exhibitions per year, both originated from its own collection and from other national and international collections; Museo Mexicano del Diseño (MUMEDI), an independent design museum led by Álvaro Rego set in a historical building in the heart of Centro Historico and presenting a series of 4 to 5 exhibitions per year, with a focus on graphic and product design; Museo Rufino Tamayo, a contemporary art museum housed in a stunning 1980s building designed by Abraham Zabludovsky and Teodoro Gonzalez; and Museo Jumex, a private collection which has recently moved to a new home designed by David Chipperfield and set next to Museo Souamaya, itself a new landmark of the city.

 This group of museums only represents a small section of the very complex cultural landscape of Mexico City, and as my week here progresses, it is clear to me there is a vast array of approaches being practised by arts organisations across the city. On the one hand, I am most impressed by both the building and the quality of the programme at Museo Tamayo, a vast brutalist complex set within Chapultepect Park and an established organisation showcasing the best of Mexican and international visual arts. On the other, new institutions such as Museo Jumex and Museo Soumaya, both the result of private investment and interest in the arts, illustrate the growing effervescence of the Mexican contemporary cultural scene.

I am also trying to get to grips with architecture and design education here, so I am thrilled to be welcomed by colleagues at the famous Architecture faculty at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico (UNAM). The school has produced some of the best architects in the country, and sits alongside the equally prestigious Industrial Design faculty, also set on the modernist Ciudad Universitaria complex, with its iconic Central Library building, itself a symbol of Mexico’s celebrated marriage of modernist architecture and muralist art.

My official visits are interspersed with more informal meeting with some of Mexico’s most respected practitioners and independent curators, among these Ana Elena Mallet, who recently organised the De Ida y Vuelta exhibition, surveying the best of contemporary Mexican design (Ana Elena is hoping to bring the exhibition to Europe after it has toured around Mexico, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed I’ll get to see it in London soon!); Emiliano Godoy, an incredible product designer, architect and “design activist”; Raquel Sereno, who studied in the UK and has recently returned to Mexico, where she has been developing product design work in collaboration with various groups of craftspeople celebrating Mexican heritage and techniques around the country; Carla Fernandez, a former YCE winner and now a leading fashion designer; and Johann Mergenthaler, a fashion entrepreneur who has recently launched Nook, an alternative platform to showcase both established as well as up-and-coming designers alongside Mexico Fashion Week.

I have only scratched the surface so far, but I am greatly inspired by the latent vibrancy in the design sector here and look forward to helping to create links between Mexico and the UK in 2015 (and beyond!).