It’s not very common to get up close and personal with a peacock. Nor is it usual to come within a foot or two of the pre-Hispanic indigenous, Mexican hairless dog the Aztecs called xoloitzcuintle.
Both are an integral part of the landscape at the Dolores Olmedo Patiño Museum in Mexico City that houses the largest private collection in the world of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo paintings.
The collection is exhibited in an ex-hacienda that Olmedo purchased in the 1960’s, then on the outskirts of Mexico City in Xochimilco near the last remaining Aztec floating gardens, accessible via gondolas that traverse the canals. Today, the
neighborhood of La Noria has been absorbed by the city sprawl of almost 25 million people. Sunday is the best day to visit when traffic is light.
Olmedo was a long-time friend and patroness of Rivera, and a Kahlo classmate at the National Preparatory School. An astute and independent business woman, Dolores Olmedo not only purchased many of Rivera’s paintings but also those of Frida at Diego’s request.
Rivera asked her to be executor of his estate and to preserve the contents of Casa Azul. She agreed not to open the bathroom/closet doors for fifteen years after his death. Today her Foundation operates both the Dolores Olmedo Patiño Museum and Casa Azul.
It wasn’t until after Olmedo died in 2002 that the closet contents were revealed. There is no clear explanation for why she kept the contents secreted away. Letters, drawings and the wardrobe that is now on display in the Casa Azul Museo Frida Kahlo annex exhibit area were uncovered revising the history of the Kahlo-Rivera relationship.
The park-like grounds of the Olmedo museum attracts families and school children most weekends. There is a small restaurant with good, reasonably priced and basic Mexican food. The outdoor stage brings musicians and dancers from all over Mexico to entertain the crowds. Last weekend a band of musicians from Veracruz and Oaxaca played jarocho music accompanied by a versatile dancer.
Mostly, it’s the peacocks and the dogs who thrill the children. It’s mating season and there is full display of plumage and a lot of tail feather shaking going on.
Looking for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Art History Tour with a knowledgeable art historian, coming winter 2015-2016. Let me know if you are interested in joining us.