Exploring the Museo Dolores Olmedo in Xochimilco, Mexico City

categories: mexico travel

There are many famous attractions in and around Mexico City where you can see the works of Diego Rivera and Friday Kahlo.  When visiting Mexico City, no one should miss the the Frida Kahlo House and the Diego Rivera murals in the Palacio Nacional.  There are, of course, other places to see their works.  One place that is often overlooked by visitors is the Museo Dolores Olmedo.

The Museo Dolores Olmedo as seen from the street
María de los Dolores Olmedo y Patiño Suarez was a Mexican business woman known for her patronage of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.  In fact, after Rivera’s death in 1957, she petitioned the Mexican government to declare his works national monuments.  Over the years, she personally commissioned him to paint a remarkable number of paintings.  This collection can be seen at the Museo Dolores Olmedo.  Currently the museum boast 150 works by Diego Rivera and 25 paintings by Frida Kahlo.  In fact, the Museo Dolores Olmedo contains the largest private collection of these two artists.

In July, my daughter and I had the opportunity to visit the museum.  We conveniently combined it with an excursion to the popular boat ride through the canals of Xochimilco.  Often tourists to Mexico City overlook this museum because of the perception that it is out of the way and hard to find.  In actuality, it can easily be reached by disembarking at the La Noria Station on the Xochimilco tram line.  From here it is a short one-block walk.

The cost for non-Mexican citizens was a little over 5 US dollars.  The museum is actually housed in a former 16th century colonial home known as the Hacienda La Noria that was purchased by Dolores Olmedo in 1994.  The home underwent major renovations and additions since its original construction.  Her intention was to provide a showplace for her extensive collection of works by Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and Angelina Beloff (Rivera’s first wife).  The museum also contains a large collection of pre-Columbian art and generally features special exhibitions by contemporary Mexican artists.
The museum has extensive grounds for you to wander and relax in
When we entered the museum we were instantly impressed by the extensive grounds and overall peaceful beauty of the place.  After we passed through the walled entranceway we found ourselves leaving behind the noise and bustle of the city.  The grounds of the museum featured peacocks, gardens with Mexican plant species, ducks, and other animals.  A popular attraction that seemed to be enjoyed by everyone was an area dedicated to preserving Mexican hairless Xoloiztcuintle dogs.  In addition to the the Rivera, Kahlo, and Beloff galleries, we also saw a weekend program that featured Mexican folk dances and songs that was included as part of our admission.  We even enjoyed lunch in a modern cafe that served traditional Mexican food at reasonable prices.

Of course, the highlight of the museum are the works of Rivera and Kahlo.  Generally Diego Rivera is know for his large murals, but the Museo Dolores Olmedo features portraits, landscapes, and smaller works by Rivera.  It is a side of Rivera rarely seen in other museums, and one that we enjoyed very much.  The collection of work by Kahlo, even though less in quantity was no less impressive.  Two of her most famous pieces, La Columna Rota (The Broken Column) and Autorretrato con changuito (Self-Portrait with Monkeys), are featured in the collection.
Outdoor sculpture can be seen on the museum grounds
A few pieces of advice if you decide to go.  All the information regarding the collection of paintings is in Spanish.  If you wish to get detailed background information on the galleries in English, you can pick up an inexpensive book in the Museum Gift Shop before you start your tour.  Also, the museum is known for lending out some its most famous works for traveling exhibits to other museums throughout the world.  On the day we visited some of Kahlo’s paintings were on loan for a year to an exhibit being staged first in Europe and then in North America.  To compensate for this, the museum did have a very enjoyable special exhibit on the personal photographs of Kahlo and Rivera.  We found ourselves comfortably spending about 2 1/2 hours at the museum.  You could spend more if you took in all the museum has to offer or less if you wished to exclusively focus on the Rivera and Kahlo paintings.

All in all, this was a very enjoyable experience, and we felt that we had found a special gem often overlooked by many visitors to Mexico City.  The Museo Dolores Olmedo is not the sole place to see the works of Diego and Kahlo, but rather a place to further your experience with their works in a more intimate setting.  It is also a peaceful respite in Mexico City and a unique place to take some photos of exotic birds and unique Mexican dogs.

A peacock wanders the museum grounds

Share this:

by Barry Kramer

Barry S. Kramer is an elementary educator who developed a love of travel after attending an educational technology conference in Beijing in the year 2000. Since then he has returned to China eight times to experience many popular attractions, national parks, and out of the way places often not visited by Westerners. He has also traveled to Russia, Japan, Tibet, northern Africa, Europe, the Middle East, as well as many places in Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. His travel partners are his wife, Liping, and his daughters, Liz and Jessica.



Leave a Reply

Tags: ,