Soumaya Museum – Mexico City, Mexico - Atlas Obscura

Soumaya Museum

66,000 pieces of art, donated by one of the world's richest men. 


Housing a whopping 66,000 pieces of predominantly Central American and European art, the Soumaya Museum was donated and constructed entirely by one of the world’s richest men, Carlos Slim Helú.  

Towering over a plaza in Northern Mexico City, the Soumaya Museum covers 170,000 square feet and glides elegantly six stories into the skyline. Opened in 2011, the shiny ethereal building cost $70 million to build, but resulted in a chic complex of galleries accessible through a narrow entrance in the building’s front.

Quite fittingly, considering the magical appearance of the museum, it was Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Colombian novelist, author of One Hundred Years of Solitude, and founder of the magical realist literary movement,  who cut the ribbon during the opening ceremony.  

Although the museum was a donation from Carlos Slim, each part of its construction was an inside job. His son in law, Fernando Romero, designed the massive structure and the exterior is covered in 16,000 hexagonal aluminum tiles from an aluminum plant Carlos Slim owns. The entire structure coyly enriches Mexico City’s cultural landscape while padding the pockets of the museum’s benefactor.

While the modern architecture of the Soumaya Museum has drawn praise for its ingenuity and partnership with Frank Gehry, many have also derided the building as an eyesore. One critic even went as far as to attack Carlos Slim, saying that money can buy everything, except taste. Worth an estimated $65 billion, it’s at least nice to see Carlos Slim give a little back to his country. A museum is certainly a better way to spend your billions than writing your name in the sand of your private island.

Know Before You Go

Admission is always free. Open daily 10:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m. every day except Tuesday when the museum is closed. Please note that this location houses the Plaza Carso galleries only. There is another entire building of art that is a companion to the museum in Southern Mexico City in Plaza Loreto, where much of the art now on display at the Soumaya was previously housed.

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