“In a city of terrific museums, the Franz Mayer is an overlooked gem,” proclaims The New York Times. I found this to be the case too. Almost everyone who goes to Mexico City visits its monumental anthropology museum, but few find the Mayer.
Franz Mayer of Manheim, Germany, came to Mexico in 1905 and stayed. He made enough money as a financier to start collecting. His passion became decorative furnishings from the 16th to the 19th century. Soon enough he had more than 10,000 objects including a spur collection, had developed into a noted photographer and orchid cultivator, and was married but without children. With no heirs, he decided to leave his stuff to the people of Mexico.
That collection is now in a historic building that predates the Spanish Era and is down the street from the Palacio de Bellas Artes. It’s known that it was a flour weighing facility until 1582. Then it became a hospital for several centuries. First serving the destitute, it ceased its medical function in the 20th century when it was a women’s hospital. Now it’s the Museo Franz Mayer.
The Mayer collection reflects the taste of the people of New Spain over 3 centuries. Like other cultures, locals with pesos imported furniture from Holland, the works of European artists, Chinese porcelain, etc. They also developed a passion for Mexican ceramics and silver pieces, doted on painted gilded wooden devotional objects, used keys, etc. The rich drank chocolate is coconut shell and silver goblets. It takes 2 floors to display just some of this, and a large area of the first floor is devoted to excellent temporary shows like Talavera Poblana, which featured pottery from the city of Puebla and explored centuries of influence from Chinese dynasties and Islamic Empires on Mexican artisans. TP is fascinating and closes July 10, but I’m sure something worthwhile will replace it.
My 2 favorite areas of Franz Mayer were its beautiful garden with a fountain that made me relax and totally forget that a city of 23 million was just beyond its walls. The Rogerio Casas-Alatriste Library on the 2nd floor was full of serious students and an eye-pleasing space with 22,000 rare books. It’s truly one of the most elegant libraries I’ve ever been in.
By all means visit the Museo Nacional de Anthropologia when you’re in Mexico City, 2016’s travel star, but save time for the Franz Mayer too. You won’t be disappointed and will exit with a smile on your face and lower blood pressure.