The Museo Soumaya is a private museum in Mexico City and a non-profit cultural institution with two museum buildings in Mexico City – Plaza Carso and Plaza Loreto. It has over 66,000 works from 30 centuries of art including sculptures from Pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica, 19th- and 20th-century Mexican art and an extensive repertoire of works by European old masters and masters of modern western art such as Auguste Rodin, Salvador Dalí, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo and Tintoretto. It is called one of the most complete collections of its kind.
The museum is named after Soumaya Domit, who died in 1999, and was the wife of the founder of the museum Carlos Slim. The museum received an attendance of 1,095,000 in 2013, making it the most visited art museum in Mexico and the 56th in the world that year. In October 2015, the museum welcomed its five millionth visitor. The museum was designed by Fernando Romero‘s practice.
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 centuries. It also holds Mexican art, religious relics, and historical documents and coins. The museum contains the world’s largest collection of pre-Hispanic and colonial era coins.
The museum holds the largest collection of casts of sculptures by Auguste Rodin outside France, and the world’s largest private collection of his art. 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. 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, Camille Claudel, and Tintoretto. 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.
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.” The museum notably includes some types of European art that have not been permanently displayed in Latin America in the past. The museum collection includes many of the most well known European artists from the 15th to 20th centuries, in particular a large collection of sculptures by Rodin and Salvador Dali.
Carlos Slim bought a large number of sculptures by Rodin in the 1980s and the value of many of these pieces has soared since. With a collection of over 100 Rodin works, some critics have claimed that Slim “…is more of a bargain hunter than an aesthete”.
The original building of the Museo Soumaya, opened in 1994, is in the Plaza Loreto of San Ángel in the southern part of Mexico City. The new building in Plaza Carso in the Nuevo Polanco district was designed by the Mexican architect Fernando Romero and opened in 2011. The building is named after Lebanese-Mexican Soumaya Domit Gemayel who is the late wife of Lebanese-Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helu. Her relatives are also the important political family Gemayel in Lebanon and is a cousin of the former President’s Bashir and Amine Gemayel.
The building is a 46-metre-high (151 ft) six-story building covered by 16,000 hexagonal aluminum tiles. The aluminium used in the project was supplied by a company that is also owned by Carlos Slim. The new building was designed by the Mexican architect Fernando Romero, who is married to a daughter of Carlos Slim, engineered with Ove Arup and Frank Gehry, and cost $70 million to build. The museum has a narrow entrance that opens into a large white gallery. 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 a 350-seat auditorium. The new Museo Soumaya building under construction in September 2010.Plaza Carso
Each of the six floors of the museum are distinctly shaped. The weight of the building is held by an exoskeleton of 28 vertical curved steel columns and seven beams encircling the structure built by a Slim-owned company that manufactures offshore oil rigs. In addition, the roof is kept stable through its suspension from a cantilever. The floors are made of high quality marble that was imported from Greece.
The new location of the Museo Soumaya was officially inaugurated on February 28, 2011 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.
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.