Big City Tales

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

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Art takes many forms in Mexico City, including colourful roof tops and stylized landscaping such as in on display at the beautiful Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts).

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 and trafficking 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.

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Diego Rivera’s murals in the Palacio Nacional depict various 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.

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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.

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

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Detail of the Central University Library’s colorful exterior.

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!

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Who needs back-up singers or a band when there is a chorus of cheery cempasuchiles to keep you company as you entertain the market crowds.


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