A new architectural jewel has recently joined the ensemble of historical buildings on the Central University City Campus of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) in the southern suburbs of Mexico City. Designed by the legendary 2008 UIA Gold medalist Teodoro González de León
, the Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC)
opened to the public on November 27, 2008 with a series of spectacular exhibitions.
Monumental, yet playful, modern and bright, MUAC stretches over 3.300 sq. m.
, incorporating virtually every existing shape. While Architect González de León came to international fame through the archaeological museum on the World Heritage Site El Tajin
in Veracruz (1992), the Superior School of Music in Mexico (1994) and the Mexican Embassy in Berlin (together with Francisco Serrano; 1999), MUAC is his true magnum opus.
A combination of window frames, sunlight and shade patterns the museum’s interior with an intricate grid of grays and whites. Round skylights reflect on the floors like approaching UFOs, and the exposed backs of stairs with their round columns are reminiscent of giant caterpillars. Most spectacular (and daunting, perhaps) is the exterior glass front, which leans at a perilously steep angle onto the plaza, threatening to crush idling pedestrians.
And that is only the outside of the museum. One of its opening exhibitions features Miguel Ventura’s huge installation “Cantos cívicos
,” in which the artist created a maze of live rats amidst walls decorated with dollar signs, swastikas and photographs of Nazi soldiers and art celebrities.
The museum is also the new home to an astonishing collection of Mexican art from the 1950s through the 2000s, including works by contemporary artists Damián Ortega
, Gabriel Orozco
and Belgium-born, Mexico-City based Francis Alÿs
. Thanks to a loan of more than 100 works from collector Patrick Charpenel, the MoMA
and the Walker Art Center, the museum includes artwork by international art stars such as Thomas Hirschhorn, Tom Friedman, Olafur Eliasson and Pipilotti Rist
The sprawling campus on which MUAC is located is worth a visit in itself. Built from 1949 to 1952 by more than 60 architects, and declared a World Heritage Site
in 2007, the Central University City Campus of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) references local, pre-Hispanic architecture while presenting a unique example of 20th-century Modernism. On a sunny day, visitors can find inspiration while wandering through the ensemble of buildings, marveling at the unusual structures and at the art that inhabits them. And on a side note, the university’s famous alumni offers an additional treasure trove of inspiration: writers and political philosophers such as Octavio Paz, Alfonso Reyes and William F. Buckley once studied here, as did former presidents Carlos Salinas de Gortari and Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado.