10 things to love about Mexico City’s Museo Dolores Olmedo

The tiles on the wall at the Museo Dolores Olmedo read: “By the example of my mother, professor Maria Patiño Suarez, widow of Olmedo, who always told me: ‘Share all you have with those around you.’ I leave this house with all my collections of art, the product of my life’s work, so the people of Mexico can enjoy it.” —Dolores Olmedo Patiño

Last year on a visit to Mexico City during the holidays, I spent a special day with friends exploring a few places I had never been before. Thanks to the abundance of cultural activities the city has to offer, there’s always something new to discover. I was thrilled to hear that the Museo Dolores Olmedo was on the itinerary they planned since I’m a big Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera fan.

Dolores Olmedo Patiño, also known to many as Doña Lola, was an aggressive collector and patron of the arts and is still revered today as one of the biggest individual benefactors and promoters of Mexican art and culture. At age 17, she met Diego Rivera by chance in an elevator at the Ministry of Public Education when he was still working on the murals there (that can still be seen today), and he ended up asking her to model for him. According to the museum, she modeled in nearly 30 nude sketches and then was the subject of other later paintings by Rivera. After separating from her husband, British journalist Howard Phillips (whom she married in 1935), the well-to-do single Olmedo made a career as a partner in a construction materials firm in the late 1940s. In the mid-1950s, she reconnected with Rivera and eventually became his benefactor, caretaker and eventually, executor of his estate and that of Frida Kahlo.

In the early 1960s Olmedo acquired Hacienda La Noria, a 16th-century Spanish colonial hacienda located in Xochimilco (a neighborhood in the south of Mexico City). At the time she acquired the property, it was a shell of its original state and so she set out on a mission to restore and preserve the hacienda. In the late 1980s, Olmedo announced plans to convert her hacienda into a museum, which opened in September 1994. Olmedo passed away in 2002 but her legacy still lives on in this charming museum she left behind for all to admire just as intended.

Here are my top ten reasons to visit the Museo Dolores Olmedo
the next time you’re in Mexico City… 

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Muralismo Mexicano: “El Pueblo a la Universidad y la Universidad al Pueblo”

A few years ago on a trip to Mexico City, I had the pleasure of working with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) to document photos of the campus for a UNESCO project. If you’re not familiar with UNAM, the university is the oldest in the Americas (it was founded in 1551) and its main campus (Ciudad Universitaria) is recognized as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. This is definitely a cool place to visit if you travel to Mexico City.

One of my favorite things about the campus is the amount of public art incorporated into both the buildings and open spaces. And I especially love the murals created by some of Mexico’s most famous artists.

During my visit, I got to spend some time up close to one of the murals that I’d only before ever seen in photographs—“El Pueblo a la Universidad y la Universidad al Pueblo” by David Alfaro Siqueiros on the side of the Torre de Rectoría…. 

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Chicago’s own Mercado Navideño

This past weekend I attended the Mercado Navideño at the National Museum of Mexican Art here in Chicago with my friend, Daniela. It’s been awhile since my last visit so I was eager to see the new exhibits as well. But I loved all the gifts, decorations and crafts that remind me so much of the Museo de Arte Popular (of which I have only ever visited the gift shop) in Mexico City. I sent a picture message from my iPhone of the beautiful paper maché piggy bank to my suegra because she collects all kinds of puerquitos (little piggies). She loved it and said when I arrive, we’ll make plans to go visit the museum since she couldn’t remember ever taking me there before.

If you live in Chicago or are visiting during the Thanksgiving holiday next year, check out the mercado – it’s typically the Friday through Sunday right after Thanksgiving. Some of the items were pricey (compared to purchasing the same item in Mexico) but for the most part, they had a lot of beautiful gifts at reasonable prices. And you can’t visit the National Museum of Mexican Art without also making a stop in the gift shop on your way out! I loved the mini papel picado, juguetes and all kinds of books about Mexican art and culture. I may go back soon for some books on regional art and food!

    • What’s your favorite kind of Mexican popular art?

 

The photos in this post were taken with my iPhone 3Gs using the Polarize app by Christopher Comair.
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