MEXICO CITY. What kind of art does the richest man in the world spend his money on? Well, Carlos Slim has let us in on the secret. The new Museo Soumaya in Mexico City is not only the most impressive building I’ve seen of late – its skin is silver disks and it rises like a post modern mushroom from a man-made crest in the middle of a busy boulevard – the collection inside is impressively personal.
But it is the vastness of the interior, vaguely reminiscent of New York’s Guggenheim that takes your breath away. The first thing you see, besides a structural support that is purposely angled, is Rodin’s “Thinker.” Set with yards of space around it, the statue seems perfectly at home. Beyond the bronze and half way up the steps to the second floor gallery is a Pieta, and to the left of that, the necessary religious art gallery.
The eclecticism of taste hits you in the eye and incites a curiosity about the man, the means and the reasons behind it all. One can only imagine that, like the rest of us, the richest man in the world has traversed periods of personal growth, getting into everything from brown furniture to the Mexican moderns, Old Masters, romanticist painters and – here and there – a few stabs at contemporary.
And you pass through the collections, hanging, for the most part, on free standing walls throughout the galleries, gathering information, you wonder if there is yet another ramp beyond that will take you to an even more eclectic view.
Eventually, you ascend the final ramp, where script lettering on the wall tells you that are now entering the sculpture collection of Julian and Linda Slim. And this, of all the galleries, is the densest, with bronzes by Dali, Rodin and others competing for your time.
Bottom line: Museo Soumaya is as much about the architecture as the works of art. Admittance is free, in “keeping with the philosophy of the group that financed the compound.” All you have to pay for is the plane ticket to DF. It’s worth the price.