Big City Tales

Mexico City: An Artist’s Playground | March 26, 2013

Image of Mexico City

Art takes many forms in Mexico City, including colourful roof tops and stylized landscaping.

It may be the centre of political power in Latin America, and may be better known (at least in recent years) as a hub for drug cartel activity, but Mexico City is also where artists like to come out and play.

Murals, Murals and More Murals

As a major contributor to the government-sponsored Mexican Mural Movement, Diego Rivera was at his height between 1922-1953 when he completed many elaborate frescos that are still revered and celebrated.

Chief among his works are the series of vibrant, bold and larger than life murals that adorn the walls of the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City. Depicting scenes from Mexican history, Diego used large, colourful and simplified figures to tell the country’s story leading up to revolution in 1910.

Other notable Diego murals in Mexico City can be found at the National Preparatory School and the Secretariat of Public Education.

Image of Diego Rivera mural

Diego Rivera’s murals in the Palacio Nacional depict aspects of Mexican history.

Self-Portraits as a form of Self-Expression

If one artist in the Rivera household wasn’t enough to merit the attention of art critics and patrons, the painter’s wife–Frida Kahlo–was also gifted with the brush and demonstrated a penchant for the medium of self-portraits.

Shocking to some, inspiring to others, Kahlo’s unique style incorporated elements of folk art and Surrealism.  She drew upon traditional aspects of Mexican culture and religion and was not one to shy away from bold colour or controversial subject matter, including her perceptions of women in Mexican society.

Kahlo’s volatile marriage with Rivera and the home she grew up in (known as the “Blue House” or La Casa Azul) also provided fodder for her extensive portfolio of work. After Kahlo’s death, La Casa Azul was converted into a museum and remains a popular tourist destination in the Colonia del Carmen district of Mexico City.

Image of Frida Kahlo Museum

The Museo Frida Kahlo is the famous “Blue House” where she grew up in Mexico City.

Building Exteriors become Art Installations

On the campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the Central Library looms large, and it’s not just because of its extensive collection of books!

The building’s exterior, painted by Juan O’Gorman, is a series of historical murals comprised of coloured tiles gathered from around the country. From Mexico City’s pre-Hispanic era to modern times, the murals offer a glimpse of how the city came to be and has subsequently evolved into a major urban centre.

Along with other campus buildings, the area is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site.

Image of Central Library in Mexico City

The Central University Library serves a dual function as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Take me out to the Market

The best place to get a full sense of the traditional Mexican arts and crafts scene is at local markets such as La Ciudadela, which offer clothes, blankets, handbags, jewelry and a host of other handmade merchandise.

While you’re spending your hard-earned dollars, enjoy the sights of cempasuchiles (marigolds) piled high in the sky and the sweet sounds of aspiring musicians looking to be discovered.

Be it amateur or established artisans displaying their wares, everywhere you turn in Mexico City there is bound to be something creative and fun that captures your eyes – so be sure to do as the artists do and get out and play!

Image of oudoor market in Mexico City

Who needs backup singers when a colourful chorus of cempasuchiles is available for free at the market?

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