If one goes to TripAdvisor, or is planning a trip to Tlaquepaque that includes museums, you will find considerable confusion between two ceramic museums. The Regional Ceramics Museum (Museo Regional de Cerámica) is neither a collection of regional ceramics nor a museum, at least as of my last visit in 2016. At that time there was an exhibit of leather ‘canvases’ or ‘paintings’, interesting but not ceramic, and a food festival in the courtyard. This museum has a small gift shop and is located in the historic district.
Then there is the Museo Pantaleón Panduro located a few blocks north and west of the church, located at Prisciliano Sánchez 191, Centro, San Pedro Tlaquepaque, Jalisco., Mexico. This is one of the finest collections, if not the finest, of Mexican ceramic art in the world. It includes pieces dating from the mid 1980’s until 2015, representing the most skilled artisans from eight states including Oaxaca, Jalisco, Chihuahua, Puebla, and Mexico. My husband and I were there the morning of Palm Sunday, 15 minutes after its opening at 10:00, and we were the only visitors. Admission was free. Curator Maestra Karla Veronica Juaregul Quintero was most helpful and enthusiastic about this ‘maravilla’, and we bought two copies of an exquisite book about the museum and the collection. She explained that the museum had been closed for a while and had been remodeled but with support of the local government had recently re-opened.
In 1995, the Municipal Government of Tlaquepaque created a gallery in the chapel of El Refugio to display award-winning pieces but it was not until October 24, 1996, that the creation of the Museum “Panteleón” was approved for their exhibit. Prior to this date the winning entries were exhibited at the Jalisco Regional Museum of Ceramics (described above). Every year the collection expands with new pieces, now with over 500 pieces reflecting a wide variety of techniques, firing temperatures, glazes, textures, etc., but all are winners of annual nationwide ceramic competitions. Subjects are highly varied, from ornate árboles de la vida (Tree of Life) to dioramas representing aspects of Mexican life (including the production of ceramics), to bowls, platters, and sculptures. I would not describe the pieces as ‘pottery’ as that would not do them justice. Although methodologies varied widely, there was little interpretive material in the displays. However the pieces are beautifully laid out, room after delightful room, with good lighting.
At the entrance to the museum is a display of its namesake, Panteleón Panduro (1847 – 1909). A native son of San Pedro Tlaquepaque, prior to his career as a sculptor, he was a brick-maker in a local factory. This self-taught artist began with clay busts and portraits of people around him. His skills were rapidly recognized and locals clamored to have their image captured in 30-minute sittings, earning him the nickname of “El Brujo”, The Wizard. He sculpted portraits of a myriad of characters including politicians, bullfighters, police, and circus performers.
Upon his death he left his legacy and workshop to his seven children, led by son Raymundo, and carried on by Raymundo’s children, Juan and Honorato, who also dedicated their lives to creating clay portraits. Among their works are Jackie and John F. Kennedy, Queen Elizabeth, Lyndon Johnson, and the presidents of Mexico. These can be seen at the entrance to the museum, a great introduction to an unforgettable museum. Joy.