Museo Soumaya

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Coordinates: 19°26′27″N 99°12′16″W / 19.440806°N 99.204583°W / 19.440806; -99.204583 The Museo Soumaya is a private museum in the Nuevo Polanco area of Mexico City. Admission to the museum is free. It is owned by the Carlos Slim Foundation and contains the extensive art, religious relics, historical documents, and coin collection of Carlos Slim and his late wife Soumaya, after whom the museum was named.[1]

The museum holds works by many of the best known European artists from the 15th to the 20th century. It contains a large collection of casts of sculptures by Auguste Rodin.

The museum was founded in 1994.[2] In 2011 it opened a new location which cost over $70 million to build. The new building, a shiny silver cloud-like structure reminiscent of a Rodin sculpture,[1] was designed by the Mexican architect Fernando Romero, who is married to a daughter of Carlos Slim,[3][4] and engineered with Ove Arup and Frank Gehry.[5]


Architectural detail of the building.

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 century. It also holds Mexican art, religious relics, and historical documents and coins.[3] The museum contains the world's largest collection of pre-Hispanic and colonial era coins.[1] It also holds the largest collection of casts of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.[6] 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.[1] 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.[3] 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.[1] Several Mexican artists are also featured, including Diego Rivera and Rufino Tamayo.[6] The director of the museum has claimed that the total worth of the art it holds is over $700 million.[1]

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."[3] The museum notably includes some types of European art that have not been permanently displayed in Latin America in the past.

Carlos Slim bought a large number of sculptures by Rodin in the 1980s while their value was at a low ebb. The values of many pieces he bought for the collection have soared since then. Some critics have claimed that Slim valued quantity over quality when amassing his collection, however.[3] In Mexican art circles, it is said, perhaps apocryphally, that he has calculated the average cost per kilogram of Rodin’s works.[7]


The new Museo Soumaya building under construction in September 2010.

The Museo Soumaya was originally located at the site of an old paper factory, in the Plaza Loreto of San Ángel, in the southern part of Mexico City. The building featured four distinct rooms each of which had a specific theme.[8]

In 2011 the main collection moved to a new 16,000-square-metre (170,000 sq ft) building, constructed in the northern part of Mexico City.[4] The new building is a 46-metre (151 ft) high six story building that is covered by 16,000 hexagonal aluminum tiles.[3][6] The aluminum used in the project was supplied by a company that is also owned by Carlos Slim. The museum has a narrow entrance that opens into a large white gallery.[3] 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 auditorium that seats 350 people.[4]

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.[3][6] Each of the six floors of the museum are distinctly shaped.[3] 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.[9] In addition, the roof is kept stable through its suspension from a cantilever.[4] The floors are made of high quality marble that was imported from Greece.[1]

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.[3]

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.[3][6]

A panoramic photograph of the entrance floor in Museo Soumaya.

Critical reception[edit]

Mexican president Felipe Calderón praised the museum as a place where "Mexicans can learn about the great masters of all time".[3] Slim himself described the museum as his attempt to increase the "humanistic capital" of Mexico City.[3] 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.[6] Indeed, it attracted 833,196 visitors in its inaugural year.[10]

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.[11]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Carlos Slim: At home with the world's richest man". The Telegraph. 21 February 2011. 
  2. ^ "¿Quiénes somos?". Museo Soumaya. 
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Museo Soumaya in Mexico City gets asymmetrical new building". Wired. 26 November 2010. 
  5. ^ "Mexico's Carlos Slim Builds a Dazzling Art Palace". Business Week. 26 January 2010. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Heidi Leigh Johansen (11 September 2007). Fodor's 2008 Mexico. New York: Random House Digital, Inc. p. 59. ISBN 978-1-4000-1792-8. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ Javier Pes and Emily Sharpe (March 28, 2013), Attendance survey 2012: Tour de force show puts Tokyo on top The Art Newspaper.
  11. ^ Casey, Nicholas (3 March 2011). "Emperor's New Museum". The Wall Street Journal. 

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