C. Dr. Enrique González Martínez 10, Sta María la Ribera, Cuauhtémoc, 06400 Ciudad de México, CDMX
The Museo Universitario del Chopo (“University Museum of Chopo”) in Mexico City was for a time the only museum in the central part of Mexico City that was dedicated to exhibiting and promoting young, diverse, and inclusive contemporary art. It prides itself on being a multi-disciplinary project that’s plural and independent. The imposing building where it resides has become a landmark of the city and it was designed and built in Germany by Bruno Möhring in the Jugendstil architectural style, which was sort of Germany’s response to the French art nouveau. It was designed as a structure that could be dismantled and moved somewhere else; and that is exactly what happened, as part of the structure was bought by businessman José Landero y Coss and brought to Mexico with the intention of housing the Compañía Mexicana de Exposición Permanente (“The Mexican Company of Permanent Exposition”), a company that would exhibit industrial and artistic products on a permanent basis.
It was installed between 1901 and 1905 in the newly developed neighborhood of Santa María de la Ribera, which would be Mexico City’s first strategically planned neighborhood, consisting of 53 city blocks. It was inaugurated by then-President Porfirio Díaz and it became a space for exhibitions, as it was originally intended, which included some exhibitions by the Japanese association in Mexico and the Museum of Natural History. The widow of industrialist Andrew Carnegie donated to the museum a replica of the Diplodocus Carnegie, a full-scale cast replica of a Jurassic dinosaur, which would become an icon of the museum in the following decades.
In 1975 the National Autonomus University of Mexico (UNAM) took over the “Crystal Palace” and renamed it the Museo Universitario del Chopo, a space where contemporary urban art could be exhibited. The museum went through a restoration phase between 2006 and 2010 and many residents were not too pleased with the addition of a space of glass inside the old building that’s supposed to be a sort of “building inside a building”, with many arguing that it has deleted the empty space that once upon a time made the Museo del Chopo elegant.
Regardless, the Museo del Chopo still serves as the cultural center it was intended to be and regularly hosts exhibitions by young and contemporary artists that have a hard time exhibiting their work anywhere else.