We have heard of rare Love stories immortalized with impressive memorials, like the Taj Mahal in India. However, I bet very few of you know about the Museo Soumaya, this impressive futuristic private museum in Mexico City that has over 66,000 artworks of different eras and from 30 different centuries, including a large number of sculptures by Rodin.
That museum was built by none other than Lebanese-Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helu, immortalizing the name and memory of his late wife Soumaya Domit Gemayel, a relative of the Gemayel family in Lebanon, and a cousin of the former Lebanese President Amine Gemayel.
The Museo Soumaya itself is a private museum and a non-profit cultural institution with two buildings, one in Plaza Loreto founded in 1994, and the newer one in Plaza Carso that was inaugurated in 2011 as part of a large development project. The project, which cost amounted to $800 million, features various of Carlos Slim’s companies, as well as a luxury hotel, and several apartment buildings.
The inauguration occurred three years after the death of Soumaya and was attended by major local and international personalities, including Evelyn Robert de Rothschild, and Larry King who predicted back then that the museum will cause an increase in the number of tourists from the United States.
In fact, in 2013, it received 1,095,000 visitors, becoming the most visited art museum in Mexico. Two years later, in October 2015, the museum marked its five millionth visitor.
Designed by Fernando Romero, husband of one of Slim’s daughter, the building measures a good 46-meter in height (151 ft), occupying a space of 16,000-square-meter (170,000 sq ft). It has six levels distinctly shaped, floors made of high-quality marble from Greece, and is covered by 16,000 hexagonal aluminum tiles supplied by one of Carlos Slim’s companies.
The architecture of the Museum, which overall construction cost $70 million, is not the only attraction causing the influx of visitors, tourists, and art lovers alike. It contains an impressive collection of artworks from legendary artists, painters, and sculptures, and also gold and silver artifacts, and ancient coins and banknotes.
The majority of the art consists of European works from the 15th to the 20th centuries. That in addition to sculptures from Pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica, 19th- and 20th-century Mexican art, and a huge collection of works by European old masters and masters of modern western art.
We are talking here about Masters like Auguste Rodin, Salvador Dalí, Murillo, Monet, Picasso, and Tintoretto, among others. It is called one of the most complete collections of its kind!
The museum also contains Mexican art, religious relics, and historical documents and coins, and the world's largest collection of pre-Hispanic and colonial-era coins. It has the largest collection of casts of sculptures by Auguste Rodin outside France and the world's largest private collection of his art.
Slim himself 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.
In addition to Rodin, some notable European artists have their works there displayed, including Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, the circle of Leonardo da Vinci, Renoir, Joan Miró, Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, El Greco, Camille Claudel, and Tintoretto, among others.
Back in the 1980s, Carlos Slim Helu had acquired a large number of sculptures by Rodin, said to amount to over 100 works, most currently in the museum. The value of many of them has soared since them.
It has been estimated that the most valuable work of art in the collection is 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.
Mexican famous artists have not been forgotten by the museum that also exhibits the like of Diego Rivera and Rufino Tamayo. The total worth of the arts, as per the director of the museum, exceeds $700 million.
Museo Soumaya opened to the public on March 28, 2011, with free admission to date, and all operating costs covered by Slim's fortune, which was deemed at the time the world's largest.
Before we end this narrative, it is worth mentioning what you could expect when visiting the museum, which you should really do:
The entrance of the museum, an asymmetric, high-ceiling vestibule, is devoted to temporary exhibitions, events, and the permanent exhibits of large-format artworks, including The Thinker by Auguste Rodin, The Last Mural by Diego Rivera, and a 19th-century bronze Pieta by Ferdinando Marinelli Artistic Foundry from the original marble by Michelangelo.
Going up into Level 1, you will see exhibits of objects in ivory, silk, and precious stones, and gold and silver decorative arts, coins, and medals, as well as banknotes dating from the Viceroyalty to the post-revolutionary era.
Temporary exhibitions will be on Level 3, while Level 4 is reserved for Impressionism to Avant-Garde’s arts, including original arts by Claude Monet, Renoir, Vincent van Gogh, Löhr, Edgar Degas, Manet, Pissarro, and the likes.
The Level 5 hosts the Venice Museo Soumaya Collection, and Level 6, which is named after Julián and Linda Slim / The Rodin Era, exhibits works by Rodin, his pupils, and associates, such as Camille Claudel and Émile-Antoine Bourdelle, and surrealist sculptures by Salvador Dalí.
In addition to the art galleries, the museum contains a library, a restaurant, and a 350-seat auditorium.
Soumaya Museo was praised by former Mexican president Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) as a place where "Mexicans can learn about the great masters of all time.”
Slim has stated 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.
So, next time you are in Mexico City, don’t miss it! This museum must be on everyone's bucket list!
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