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Contemporary Art and Mexico City's Museology: Tamayo, Jumex and MUAC

Fachada. Fotografía: cortesía MUAC
Fachada. Fotografía: cortesía MUAC

The production and consumption of contemporary art has increased significantly in Mexico City both in terms of market activity and in quantity of educational programs, communication strategies, networks and cultural spaces involved in themes of artistic experimentation. This trend has prompted a mass redistribution of economic and symbolic flows attached to the contemporary school of thought. The rise in the number of public and private museums that are partially or entirely devoted to contemporary art as well as their growing popularity are a testament to Mexico City’s increased interest in cultural infrastructure. This recent flourishment of art venues inevitably brings about questions regarding the role of museums in a city’s heritage and forces cultural planners to consider the artistic demands of popular art forms. Three museums have addressed these question through a radical approach to modernist institutional paradigms: Tamayo, MUAC, and Jumex museums. Each of these museums have doubled their material infrastructure and broadened their reach in significant ways. Through different strategies, they encourage experimentation and participation in the arts that redefine the aesthetics of urban space.

Cy Twombly en Museo Jumex. Fotografía: cortesía Museo Jumex
Cy Twombly en Museo Jumex. Fotografía: cortesía Museo Jumex

These museums add up to the development of a fertile local cultural agenda in one of the richest and most dynamic fields in the city. The Tamayo Museum harbours one of the most significant collections of Modern art in Mexico. In 2011, 30 years after its first opening, the Tamayo was renovated and expanded by architect Teodoro González de León, co-creator of the original construction from 1981. The remodeling of the building responded to the museum’s mission to diversify and expand its audience as well as to create spaces for education. While the commissioning of the renovations called for a re-evaluation of the original architectural construction, it also allowed certain continuity and unity in the process of restructuring and expanding the building.

Taller. Fotografía: cortesía Museo Tamayo
Taller. Fotografía: cortesía Museo Tamayo

Since 2001, the Jumex Foundation of Contemporary Art has contributed to the development of the contemporary arts scene in Mexico through its collections, exhibitions, and its library. As a private, non-profit institution, Jumex has supported curators and artists that have become national and international benchmarks in the arts scene. This museum has provided a platform for dialogue between the local and international contemporary artistic practices by forming a network of local and foreign artists. In 2013, the founder and president of the Jumex Foundation, Eugenio López Alonso, opened a new museum in a historically industrial neighbourhood and commissioned its design to the British architect David Chipperfield. The curatorial and educational program that inspired the new construction replaces traditional approaches to exhibition and encourages more interactive participation with consumers of art. The Jumex institution operates as a gallery, an archive and a warehouse, acting as one of the most important platforms for memory, education and experimentation around contemporary art in the city.

Actividad exterior. Fotografía: cortesía Museo Tamayo
Actividad exterior. Fotografía: cortesía Museo Tamayo

Since its opening in 2008, the MUAC (‘Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo’) has made it its mission to manage and disseminate the country’s contemporary visual culture and to forge Mexico City’s international presence. This museum has strengthened cultural alliances and reached broader audiences, particularly among young students and professionals in the contemporary arts field. Designed by González de León (co-creator of the Tamayo Museum), MUAC is located atop a bed of igneous rock within the University’s Cultural Complex and is adjacent to one of the City’s largest natural reserves. The MUAC’s exhibition rooms operate as plateaus that adapt to the diversity of visual and conceptual content they hold. The museum also features an auditory experimentation room, an agora dedicated to pedagogical resources and mediation, a conservation and restoration laboratory, a museographic workshop, a specialized library, as well as an archive and documentation center. This museum also hosts one of the most challenging and inclusive academic programs of contemporary visual culture, the “Expanded Campus”, which is devoted to encouraging active participation among diverse communities by addressing topics like gender, violence, the creative economy, global identities and ecological crises.

Exhibicón Desafío a la estabilidad. Fotografía: cortesía MUAC
Exhibicón Desafío a la estabilidad. Fotografía: cortesía MUAC

These three institutions show a dedicated professional link between the relatively young disciplines of design and museology. The museums use current artistic and architectural trends to observe history through spatial concepts. The contemporary art scene in Mexico City has been able to adapt to new museological techniques and has successfully affirmed its position as a global city with a rich cultural heritage.

Project name University Museum of Contemporary Art MUAC / Museum Jumex / Rufino Tamayo Museum
Period 2008 / 1994 / 1981
Contributor Teodoro González de León / Fundación Carlos Slim / Fundación Olga y Rufino Tamayo
Location Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, 04350, CDMX / Boulervard Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra 303, Granada, Miguel Hidalgo, 11529 / Paseo de la Reforma 51, Bosque de Chapultepec, Bosque de Chapultepec I Secc, 11580