It is unusual for one person to build an art museum and fund it all, especially when no future remuneration is expected in return. But when your name is Carlos Slim Helú and you are the richest person in the world, who happens to own roughly 66,000 coveted works of art, it might cross your mind.
Building, filling, and funding a new museum is exactly what the world's richest man did and he's giving it to the people of Mexico City, his home for all but a few months of his 71 years. Slim, as he is called, is a man who has said he does not contribute to charities, yet he is giving the Museo Soumaya and access to one of the world's finest collections of European and Mexican art to a capitol city that yearns for recognition as a cosmopolitan, worldly center for the arts.
Museo Soumaya: a gift to Mexico City from the world's richest person: © Associated Press via npr.org
Spiral corridors wind around and up the floors of the Museo Soumaya: © Associated Press via npr.org
Located in the most exclusive area of Mexico City, Polanco, the Museo Soumaya, named after Slim's late wife, was designed by Slim's son-in-law, architect Fernando Romero. The six-story,183,000 square foot, forward-bending building is covered by 16,000 aluminum panels, so it will certainly be noticed from a distance. Yet, Slim has so many objets d'art that the items will have to be rotated in and out of the exhibit space.
The Museo will display works of da Vinci, El Greco, Monet, Cezanne, Toulouse Lautrec, Van Gogh, and a vast collection of sculptures by Rodin, including The Kiss, The Thinker, and The Three Shades. One hall will be devoted entirely to Slim's currency collection, gold, and silver; others to his collections of portraits, fashion, and furniture.
The Triumphant Angel by Salvador Dali on the top floor of the Museo Soumaya: © Associated Press via npr.org
The Thinker by Rodin, perhaps Rodin's most famous sculpture: image via mx-df.net
The Three Shades by Rodin. The Rodin exhibit is extensive and impressive: © Associated Press via npr.org
Carlos Slim Helú owns Mexico's major telephone and cell phone companies. He owns banks, shopping centers, restaurants, and controls the Sears and Saks retail operations in Mexico. In 2010 he surpassed Bill Gates to become number one on Forbes list of the richest men. His wealth is now estimated at nearly $70 billion.
The Museo Soumayo will open to the public on March 29, 2011. Admission is free to the public.
sources: NPR, Wall Street Journal, Forbes