José Luis Cuevas Museum
Both buildings were built as parts of the Convent of Santa Inés (Agnes of Rome) complex. The museum is in the convent's colonial era residential hall.
Convent of Santa Inés
This convent was founded in 1600 by Don Diego Caballero and his wife Doña Inés de Velasco. Their patronage was funded by their ownership of the largest sugar cane processing operation in New Spain. The Santa Inés convent was originally built to accommodate thirty-three nuns, equal to the number of years Christ spent on earth. In colonial times, it also took in Spanish orphans who did not have a dowry. In return, these orphans were required to pray an hour a day for their benefactors.
The convent existed until 1861, when due to the Nationalization of Church Property Act, all covents and monasteries in the country were disbanded. The convent’s church and residence hall where separated.
The Church of Santa Inés still maintains its original function. The residence hall became private property, functioning mostly as tenements until artist José Luis Cuevas bought the property with the intention to restoring it and establishing the current museum dedicated to his art and art of contemporary Latin America.
The complex suffered damage in 1624 as a result of flooding and again in 1639 due to a fire. In 1710, its single tower was built, which was high enough to be seen from the main plaza of town. Towards the end of the 18th century, its ceiling was rotten, and the church and tower were cracked. The complex was repaired under the patronage of the Marquis of La Cadena. In 1861, due the Reform Laws the convent was closed. The nuns here were moved first to Santa Teresa La Antigua then later to Santa Catalina de Siena. The tower was demolished, and the church and convent were separated with the convent’s residence portion being sold into private hands due to the nationalization of church property at that time. The convent and church were declared a national monument in 1932, but it remained private property as tenements until the 1980s, when the museum project began.
Church of Santa Inés
The entrance of the church is at 26 Moneda Street, just northeast of the main plaza of Mexico City. This church is considered to be a mix of styles between Mexican Baroque and Neoclassical. The church was completely finished in 1770.
The church has two portals, one dedicated to Saint Agnes and the other to the Apostle James the Great. The wooden doors of this church are carved with reliefs. Some of these depict the life of Saint Agnes and others show images of the nuns of the convent with their benefactors, Don Diego Caballero and Doña Inés de Velasco. One scene depicts the life of the Apostle James just after he is martyred by decapitation. One other shows Santiago Matamoros, a saint connected with the expulsion of the Moors from Spain.
Its dome is decorated with tiles laid in a strip design and made to look like rebozos, a type of indigenous shawl. Inside, the original Baroque altar is long gone, replaced with the current Neoclassic altar. Mexican painters Miguel Cabrera and José de Ibarra are interned in altar here.
José Luis Cuevas Museum
By the late 1970s, artist José Luis Cuevas had gathered a large collection of modern artworks by Latin American artists, with the aim of establishing a museum in his name. The collection was kept in the storage facilities of the Carrillo Gil Museum as Cuevas looked for a suitable location for the collection. Having been born in the historic Centro district of Mexico City, Cuevas wanted the museum to be located there.
After acquiring the historic Santa Inés Convent building in 1983, and relocating its residents, the adaptive reuse project began. Cuevas, along with government agencies and private supporters set to restore the building and perform archeological work. It revealed many of the much older construction elements of the convent. Restoration work was completed in 1988.
While it was primarily restored to its colonial era appearance, Cuevas had the convent’s courtyard roofed with a plastic dome to have a contrary and modern element. The entrance of the museum is located at 13 Academia Street, around the corner from the Santa Inés Church. The courtyard's patio is dominated by a tall bronze sculpture named “La Giganta” (The Female Giant). Cuevas created this site specific sculpture for this space. The statue is 8 metres (26 ft) tall and weighs 8 tons.
The José Luis Cuevas Museum opened in July 1992.
The principal exhibition rooms contain artworks by Cuevas, including a room dedicated to works by him and his wife artist Bertha Cuevas, and the 'Pablo Picasso room' displaying his drawings.
The museum's collection also includes many artworks by 19th and 20th century Mexican artists, including: Francisco Toledo, Juan Soriano, Vicente Rojo Almazán, Manuel Felguérez, Arnold Belkin, Gabriel Macotela. In addition it has works by international modern artists, including Roberto Matta, Fernando de Szys-Varo, Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo.
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- Galindo, Carmen; Magdelena Galindo (2002). Mexico City Historic Center. Mexico City: Ediciones Nueva Guia. p. 68. ISBN 968-5437-29-7.
- "Santa Inés Convent". Retrieved 2009-03-28.
- Cuevas, Beatriz del Carmen. "Historia del Convento de Sta. Ines y creación del Museo JLC". Retrieved 2009-03-28.
- Bueno de Ariztegui (ed), Patricia (1984). Guia Turistica de Mexico – Distrito Federal Centro 3. Mexico City: Promexa. p. 94. ISBN 968-34-0319-0.
- "Guia de Iglesia de Santa Inés". Retrieved 2009-03-28.
- (Spanish)—Official José Luis Cuevas Museum website