This week, the Museo Jumex opens to the public in Mexico City after it’s glitz-blitz VIP opening this weekend (more on that in a bit, I mean you don’t just want to know about the paintings do you?). The museum was built by David Chipperfield with the Lopez family’s fruit juice fortune to house the art collection of Eugenio Lopez – the art-fancying heir who has amassed a perfectly formed booty of the best Latin American art, focusing on contemporary Mexico but including international heavyweights like Hirst and Koons, too.
On the outskirts of the traditional gallery neighbourhood of Polanco, the Jumex is nestled next to Carlos Slim’s much-disdained UFO, the Soumaya Museum (home to the telecom magnate’s own collection). Chipperfield’s design for Jumex is a moment of calm among the towers of the multinationals it borders, a sandstone-light antidote to architectural histrionics, just as the collection within is a tonic for buying hubris. This is a spare, spacious, considered place to look at art that matters in the country in which it sits.
Here are wonderful works by Mexico’s finest and best known: Gabriel Orozco and Damián Ortega both star. Ortega’s “Cosmologia Domestica” – a solar system of household utensils – is a fresh commission for the museum’s opening and at the time you’re reading/ listening to this it might just be finished, possibly a little bit behind schedule.
So inside we go and the top-floor gallery, all high ceilings and natural light, is a joy for showing the paintings, installations and sculpture whipped from the archives for the opening exhibition. Downstairs a show staged in collaboration with New York’s PS1 is an intellectual work-out – the letters, stages and ephemera of performance artist James Lee Byars. A bold choice for an opener and typical, we’re told, of the intentions of the museum’s director Patrick Charpenel. It’s just so.
Not that the opening party had such high-falutin’ ways – oh no. The Jumex bashes are folklore here in Mexico City for their turbo-charged nature. And there we were – one minute minding our own business balancing the champagne flute and the tostada de atun from one of the city’s restaurant gems, Contramar, the next we’re in a mighty venue out of town somewhere with an orchestra dressed for a masked-ball providing the warm-up to Mark Ronson tearing it up in a burgundy smoking jacket and dropping the needle on some stone-cold classics. The great and good of the international art crowd slamming mescal to Blondie is a sight for sore eyes anywhere.
What a nice, messy counterpoint to such a considered collection and beautiful building. This was a weekend of great shakes about a great new space.
Robert Bound is Monocle's culture editor.