By Carole Reedy
Art surrounds us, coming straight from the heart and transmitted via various media to all our senses. However, art in the form of painting or sculpture is the literal art to which we refer in this short exploration of art in the city.
“Art Is Everywhere” implies that you need not necessarily visit a museum to see it or pay to enjoy it. Here in Mexico City, where housing prices are the highest in the country, art museums are relatively inexpensive and are often free to students and the over-60s. All museums are gratis on Sundays, but during the week they remain among the most reasonable in the world.
Let’s compare the full-price entry of the most popular and prestigious museums in the world:
Art Institute of Chicago: General Admission $25 USD (465 Mexican pesos). Reduced fees apply for seniors and children.
- Metropolitan Museum of Art New York: Same as Chicago.
- Louvre in Paris: 15 Euros (just over 300 Mexican pesos).
- National Gallery London: Free to all.
- Prado Madrid: 15 Euros (just over 300 Mexican pesos) with various times for free admission, though online commenters report that the museum is packed during those hours. If it’s within your budget, pay in order to fully enjoy the experience.
- El Museo de Arte Moderno Mexico City (a personal favorite): 60 Mexican pesos (about $3.24 USD)
- El Museo Nacional del Arte Mexico City: 60 pesos (about $3.24 USD)
The most expensive art museum in Mexico City is the Blue House of Frida Kahlo in Coyoacán, which costs 80 pesos, or just a little over $4.30 USD. And the Luis Barragán house (unlike the nonprofit Kahlo house, this is a private endeavor) charges 200 pesos (somewhat over $10.75), but that includes an intense two-hour tour.
As you can see, the price of the art experience is much more palatable in Mexico City than in other capital cities. But, in addition, as the theme of this article implies, there are innumerable places to absorb art at no cost. You’ll run across much of this art while “flaneuring” through the city. Here are a few places where your walk or ride will be distracted by art.
REFORMA AVENUE (between the Museo Nacional de Antropología and the Auditorio Nacional) on the south side of the street. Giant photo displays decorate the gates around Chapultepec Park on Reforma Avenue all months of the year. The themes vary greatly and have included photos of famous entertainers, particular states of the republic and their outstanding features, foreign countries and their cultures, the foods of Mexico, and the environment. Whatever your preference, your leisurely stroll down Reforma will be enhanced by the beauty on display. All photos are visible from the Turibus that passes Reforma on the Centro Historico route.
LA ROMITA This is a lovely discovery. Tucked literally into a corner of the bustling Roma colonia lie a few blocks that are fondly known as La Romita, a place actually inhabited by the Spanish after they conquered Tenochtitlán (seat of the Aztec empire, now called Mexico City). It’s called La Romita because the tree-lined streets reminded the inhabitants of Rome. The area was untouched when investors came in to develop the colonia years later because the long-time residents kept to themselves and didn’t become involved with the new style of living. There is a little main plaza, surrounded by disheveled streets, that in 2013 was awarded Pueblos originario status, the designation given to areas or groups of people with prehispanic roots within the city limits. Take time to enjoy the small plaza, church, and shops, as well as the amazing murals that adorn the sides of buildings, making it all bright and a bit modern.
METRO STOPS The underground metro stops are often dark, dank, and depressing, but the city tries to spiff them up with artwork and creative cultural sculptures. My favorite is the mural at the metro stop Auditorio, just outside the Auditorio Nacional, our palace for music. Cartoonist Jorge Flores Manjarrez created the grand mural “Un Viaje por el Rock and Roll,” an acrylic mosaic over wood depicting grand legends including Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Kiss, the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, and Madonna. Manjarrez’s work has appeared in newspapers and magazines such as Playboy, Rolling Stone, and La Jornada, among many others. Don’t miss this blast from the past!
METRO STATION PINO SUAREZ Worth special mention because it houses the smallest but most visited pyramid in Mexico. The prehispanic monument Ehécatl is admired each year by 54 million people, 21 times more than the famous pyramids at Teotihuacán. This metro station is one of the three most traveled stations of the 175 in our system. Every day, 150,000 to 200,000 people pass by the beloved pyramid that was discovered here between 1968 and 1970.
There are many more murals that due to space can’t be described in this article. During your next ride on the metro, be sure to look up from your feet at the murals that decorate the station.
Sculpture abounds in the city. Walk the center median on Reforma Avenue from Juarez to the Auditorio and you’ll pass a sculpture on every corner and the spaces in between. Often there are special exhibits that spill over onto the sidewalks. Recently, the walkways of Reforma housed a collection of giant guitars, painted in every style imaginable. There’s always a surprise. Last time I walked there was a display of giant alebrejes, those huge fantasy-driven animals of bright colors and designs whose style comes from Oaxaca. Near Oaxaca City, you can visit San Martín Tilcajete, the village where they originated and are still crafted. Of course, in front of every government and cultural building, you’ll find more sculpture. I must add that the sculpture in Buenos Aires tops Mexico’s, but in size only.
TWO WORTHWHILE MUSEUM VISITS
Let me close with two recommendations of temporary exhibits, the first of which is an all-inclusive exhibit of the art of Remedios Varo. It is complete with paintings and sketches as well as comprehensive biographical data. A must for surrealist fans. At the Museo del Arte Moderno in Chapultepec Park on Reforma Avenue until February.
The other is a collection of works from the National Museum of Art in China, titled China no es como la pintan (China is not as it is painted), at the Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso in Centro Historico, at Justo Sierra 16, until February 19.
Wherever you roam, there is art. Enjoy!