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Museo Soumaya

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Title: Museo Soumaya  
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Subject: Plaza Carso, Mexico City, Museo Alameda, 2011 in art, Former private collections
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Museo Soumaya

Soumaya Museum
Museo Soumaya
Exterior of the Plaza Carso building
Established Plaza Loreto: 8 December 1994
Plaza Carso: 29 March 2011
Location Nuevo Polanco, Mexico City
Type Art museum
Accreditation ICOM; Mexican ILM; FEMAM
Collection size 66,000+

1M+ (2013)[1]

Founder Carlos Slim
Director Alfonso Miranda
Owner Carlos Slim Foundation
Public transit access Metro Polanco
  Línea 7
Website .mx.comsoumaya

The Museo Soumaya is a private museum in Mexico City. It is a non-profit cultural institution with two museum buildings in Mexico City - Plaza Carso and Plaza Loreto. It has over 66,000 works from 30 centuries of art including sculptures from Pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica, 19th- and 20th-century Mexican art and an extensive repertoire of works by European old masters and masters of modern western art such as Auguste Rodin, Salvador Dalí, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo and Tintoretto. It is considered to be one of the most complete collections of its kind.[2][3] The museum is named after Soumaya Domit, who died in 1999, and was the wife of the founder of the museum Carlos Slim.[4] The museum received an attendance of 833,196 in 2011 (the inaugural year of the Plaza Carso building),[5] over one million visitors in 2012[6] and also in 2013.[1] This ranks it as the most visited art museum in Mexico and the 56th most visited museum in the world.


Julián and Linda Slim gallery, Plaza Carso building, where much of the Rodin and Dali collection is displayed

The Museo Soumaya has a collection of over 66,000 pieces of art. The majority of the art consists of European works from the 15th to the 20th centuries. It also holds Mexican art, religious relics, and historical documents and coins.[7] The museum contains the world's largest collection of pre-Hispanic and colonial era coins.[4] It also holds the largest collection of casts of sculptures by Auguste Rodin outside of France, and the world's largest private collection of his art.[8] Slim owns a total of 380 casts and works of art by Rodin. His late wife, whom he credits with teaching him much of what he knows about art, was an admirer of Rodin's work.[4] In addition to Rodin, some notable European artists whose work is displayed include Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, the circle of Leonardo da Vinci, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Joan Miró, Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, El Greco, and Tintoretto.[7] The most valuable work of art in the collection is believed to be a version of Madonna of the Yarnwinder by a member of the circle of Leonardo da Vinci. Another version of the same painting has been valued at over £30 Million.[4]

Several Mexican artists are also featured, including Diego Rivera and Rufino Tamayo.[8] The director of the museum has claimed that the total worth of the art it holds is over $700 million.[4]

The museum's director, Alfonso Miranda, has described its approach as "not a copy of the Occident; what we have is a whole new version of things."[7] The museum notably includes some types of European art that have not been permanently displayed in Latin America in the past. The museum collection includes many of the most well known European artists from the 15th to 20th centuries, in particular a large collection of sculptures by Auguste Rodin and Salvador Dali.

Carlos Slim bought a large number of sculptures by Rodin in the 1980s and the values of many pieces have soared since. With a collection of over 100 Rodin works, some critics have claimed that Slim " more of a bargain hunter than an aesthete".[7]


Detail of the building's external tiles.

The original building of the Museo Soumaya, opened in 1994, is in the Plaza Loreto of San Ángel in the southern part of Mexico City. The new building in Plaza Carso in the Nuevo Polanco district was opened in 2011.

Plaza Loreto

Built near the Magdalena river the museum's first building is on what was part of the encomienda of the conquistador Hernán Cortés in the 15th century. His son Martín Cortés installed a wheat watermill on the site which in the 19th century was converted to a paper mill. In 1905 a fire broke out in the facility and as a result, on 13 October 1905, its then owners sold to Alberto Lenz. In 1906 Lenz converted the mill to a factory named Fábrica de Papel de Loreto y Peña Pobre after which the current plaza is named.[9]

In the 1980s, another fire destroyed most of the facilities and operations were transferred to the state of Tlaxcala. This led to the Grupo Carso undertaking an urban conversion of the ruins to turn it into what is now the site of the museum - officially founded in 1994.[10] In 1996 the museum received heritage recognition from ICOMOS. The museum building featured four distinct rooms each of which had a specific theme: European & Mexican landscape; The age of Rodin; Mexican calendars; temporary exhibitions.[10] In 2014, on the occasion of its 19th anniversary, it hosted the exhibition European Landscapes, showing 50 works by Pierre-Antoine Demachy, Klaes Molenaer and Joost Carhelisz. 24 of these were new acquisitions.[11]

Plaza Carso

Plaza Carso

In 2011 the main collection moved to a new 16,000-square-metre (170,000 sq ft) building, constructed in the North of the city in Plaza Carso.[12]


The building is a 46-metre (151 ft) high six story building covered by 16,000 hexagonal aluminum tiles.[7][8] The aluminium used in the project was supplied by a company that is also owned by Carlos Slim. The new building was designed by the Mexican architect Fernando Romero, who is married to a daughter of Carlos Slim,[7][12] engineered with Ove Arup and Frank Gehry.[13] and cost $70 million to build. The museum has a narrow entrance that opens into a large white gallery.[7] The top floor of the building is opened so that it is illuminated by sunlight during the daytime. In addition to the art galleries, the new building contains a library, restaurant, and an 350-seat auditorium.[12]

The new Museo Soumaya building under construction in September 2010.

Slim and Romero discussed the design of the building extensively, even going over details of the planned construction during family gatherings. Slim, who was trained as an engineer, has referred to himself as a co-architect of the building. Romero has denied that nepotism was a factor in his selection as architect. Before being selected as the architect for the project he had won several international architecture awards, although this was the largest project that he had ever undertaken.[7][8] Each of the six floors of the museum are distinctly shaped.[7] The weight of the building is upheld by an exoskeleton of 28 curved steel vertical columns and seven beams encircling the structure built by a Slim owned company that manufactures offshore oil rigs.[14] In addition, the roof is kept stable through its suspension from a cantilever.[12] The floors are made of high quality marble that was imported from Greece.[4]

The new location of the Museo Soumaya was officially inaugurated in February 28, 2011 with a large VIP gala that culminated in a ceremonial ribbon cutting. Notable guests that participated in the ribbon cutting included Felipe Calderón, Gabriel García Márquez, Evelyn Robert de Rothschild, and Larry King. The new building opened to the public on March 28, 2011. Admission to the museum is now free of charge and the operating costs are covered by Slim's fortune, which was the world's largest at the time the new location opened.[7]

The museum is located in a large mixed-use development, Plaza Carso in Nuevo Polanco. This project was also built by Carlos Slim and features many of his companies, as well as a luxury hotel and several apartment buildings. The entire development cost almost $800 million to build.[7][8]


Río Juchitán, Diego Rivera
  • Entrance: This foyer area is an asymmetric, high-ceiling vestibule. This space is devoted to temporary exhibitions, events and permanently exhibits four large-format works: The Thinker by Auguste Rodin, Río Juchitán the last mural by Diego Rivera, Still life by Rufino Tamayo, Day and night by Rufino Tamayo and Pieta, cast in bronze in the 19th century from the marble by Michelangelo Buonarroti.
  • Level 1: Gold and silver: decorative arts. Collection of coins, medals and banknotes dating from the Viceroyalty to the post-revolutionary era. There are also objects in ivory, silk and precious stones for religious and civil use.
  • Level 2: Temporary exhibitions
  • Level 3: European and Colonial Old Masters. Works of European artists such as the Cranachs, Tintoretto, el Greco, Rubens, Artemisia Gentileschi and Murillo, with Colonial works by Villalpando, Juárez, Cabrera and Páez, among others.
  • Level 4: From Impressionism to the Avant-garde. Landscape and costumbrist works of 19th-century Mexico by Chapman, Rugendas, Egerton, Linati, Baron Gros, Löhr, Landesio and Velasco together with works from the European movements and vanguards, by Manet, Monet, Renoir, Degas, Pissarro, Van Gogh, Vlaminck, Chagall and Miró.
  • Level 5: From the ancient to the modern Mexico. Works from the Mesoamerican era together with 20th-century artists such as Siqueiros, Orozco, Rivera, Tamayo, Montenegro, Soriano and others
  • Level 6: Julián and Linda Slim / The Rodin Era. Works by Rodin and his pupils such as Camille Claudel and Émile-Antoine Bourdelle, together with surrealist sculptures by Salvador Dalí.
A panoramic photograph of the entrance floor in Museo Soumaya.

Critical reception

Mexican president Felipe Calderón praised the museum as a place where "Mexicans can learn about the great masters of all time".[7] Slim himself described the museum as his attempt to increase the "humanistic capital" of Mexico City.[7] He has noted that since many Mexicans cannot afford to travel to Europe to view art collections there, it was important to house a prestigious collection of European art in Mexico itself. Some commentators, including Larry King, have predicted that the museum will cause an increase in the amount of tourists from the United States who visit Mexico City.[8]

Headlines such as "Carlos Slim's Xanadu?: Reactions to the World's Richest Man's Overweening New Museo Soumaya", "Emperor's New Museum", and "Photos: World's Richest Man Opens World's Flashiest Museum" reflect criticisms of Carlos Slim as a business man, the quality of the work exhibited, and the quality of the building.[15]


  1. ^ a b Top 100 Art Museum Attendance, The Art Newspaper, 2014. Retrieved on 9 July 2014.
  2. ^  
  3. ^ Miselem, Sofía (1 April 2011). "Magnate mexicano-libanés Slim reúne en México obras de arte de renombre mundial" (in Spanish).  
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Carlos Slim: At home with the world's richest man". The Telegraph. 21 February 2011. 
  5. ^ Javier Pes and Emily Sharpe (March 28, 2013)Attendance survey 2012: Tour de force show puts Tokyo on top The Art Newspaper
  6. ^ "Museo Soumaya supera un millón de visitantes" (in Spanish). Contenido. 31 July 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Casey, Nicholas (3 March 2011). "Emperor's New Museum". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 29 March 2011. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f Tuckman, Jo (2 March 2011). "Mexican billionaire's new museum gives The Thinker much to ponder". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 29 March 2011. 
  9. ^ Rafael Loera y Cháve, ed. (1957). ]Loreto. History and evolution of a paper factory [Loreto. Historia y evolución de una fábrica de papel (in Spanish). Fábrica de Papel Loreto y Peña Pobre S.A. 
  10. ^ a b "Plaza Loreto". Museo Soumaya. Retrieved 29 September 2014. 
  11. ^ Ávila, Sonia (9 December 2013). "El Museo Soumaya de Plaza Loreto festeja 19 años (The Museo Soumaya of Plaza Loreto celebrates 19 years)". Excélsior (in Spanish). Retrieved 29 September 2014. 
  12. ^ a b c d "Museo Soumaya in Mexico City gets asymmetrical new building". Wired. 26 November 2010. 
  13. ^ "Mexico's Carlos Slim Builds a Dazzling Art Palace". Business Week. 26 January 2010. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ Casey, Nicholas (3 March 2011). "Emperor's New Museum". The Wall Street Journal. 

External links

  • Museo Soumaya official site (Spanish)
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