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Telecom Tycoon Opens Fabulous, Free Art Museum in Mexico City

By Paige, Nicaragua, March 2011

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Rising dramatically from Mexico City’s posh Polanco District is a gleaming, new, curvaceous structure unlike anything this architecturally innovative city has seen. It is a brand new art museum, poised to rank among Latin America’s best, a gift to the city from world renowned businessman Carlos Slim, who was until recently the world’s richest man. It is said that Slim controls about 5% of Mexico’s total GDP, including 85% of the nation’s telephones (through Telmex and Telcel), more than 50% of its Internet access, and other holdings that range from department stores and hotels to coffee and cigarettes.

In fact, Grupo Carso, Slim’s aluminum company, provided the gleaming hexagonal honeycomb skin of the Museo Soumaya, which officially opens on March 29. It will be free to the public, as will the smaller, eponymous museum that opened in 1994 to display a tiny fraction of the same collection. The museums are both named for Slim’s wife, Soumaya Domit Gemayel, who passed away in 1999. In Arabic, Soumaya means “A Little Bit of Heaven” (the Slims are of Lebanese heritage), rather appropriate for such a stunning structure.

In keeping with the Soumaya’s family theme, the unusual building was designed by Slim's son in law, award-winning architect Fernando Romero. Striking to say the least, its sinuous twists are built to survive any earthquake, and protect the incredible collection inside.

Slim’s entire collection comprises some 66,000 pieces, which will be rotated through the Avant-garde interior, an airy white space that seems to curve into infinity. Prodigious pieces by the great Mexican masters, including Diego Rivera and Juan Soriano, will be displayed alongside work from the best European artists, including one of the largest collections of Augusto Rodin (including “The Thinker” and “The Kiss) in the world. El Greco, Matisse, Dalí, Da Vinci, Toulouse-Lautrec, Tintoretto, Monet, Renoir, Rubens, Van Gogh, Picasso and many more are also well represented. Other exhibits will showcase Slim’s extensive numismatic and pre-Colombian collections as well.

The museum was inaugurated at a star-studded gala last month, with luminaries including Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez, Mexican President Felipe Calderón, and television personality Larry King. While that fiesta must have been something spectacular, the museum was built so that anyone, from the poorest Mexican shanty dweller and scruffiest backpacker, to the most sophisticated traveler in search of a world-class attraction in this mighty city, to enjoy. So check it out.

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