A trip to the National Anthropology Museum, Mexico

This summer I was lucky enough to be part of the Architectural Association’s experimental concrete sculpture summer school  (Las Pozas) in Mexico.  These photos are from our morning at the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City.

We had a day to absorb as much as possible about Mexico’s pre-Columbian history as well as looking at the forms, construction and materials of the objects we were seeing. It wasn’t long enough, but these are some impressions from my visit…

Above is the partial recreation of the facade of Temple of Quetzalcoatl / Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent with indications of how it may have been coloured.

The original is at Teotihuacan / City of Gods; a pre-Aztec (150 / 200AD) city (now an archeological site) about 40 km north of Mexico City.  The carved stone heads are of the Serpent and another figure that could be Tlaloc; a rain or storm god (who to me looks a bit crocodile-ish)

Teeth, claws and empty chest cavities feature quite a lot! Not surprisingly many archaeological sites have found remains of human sacrifice as well as artefacts.

I got strong mixed feelings both of power and vulnerability from spending time in the Mexica / Aztec room.

The 60s architecture of the museum is very impressive and monumental; There is a lot of space (the museum site covers almost 80,000m sq, with 23 rooms), height and detail to the buildings; you feel like an ant!.

Some quick notes I made after a couple of days (after our visits to Teotihuacan and the Nueva Ruta de la Amistad)

Notebook sketches from Mexico - 7 Aug

The bronze animal heads below are part of a temporary exhibit by Ai Weiwei. His bronzes reinterpret the twelve animals representing the traditional Chinese zodiac that once decorated an 18C imperial fountain-clock of the Yuanming Yuan / Old Summer Palace, Beijing.

It seems a shame the fountain around the pillar wasn’t working, to complete the water element, but I think they worked really well in this context, with a very visceral element to them.

I highly recommend this museum and would love to go back… Maybe one day!

Museo Nacional de Antropología
Av. Paseo de la Reforma y Calzada Gandhi s/n, Col. Chapultepec Polanco. Delegación Miguel Hidalgo. C.P. 11560, México, D.F.

  • Metro: Auditorio station (Line 7), and Chapultepec station (Line 1) + bus ride or 15min walk
  • Closed Mondays (busy on Sundays)
  • Allow 4 or 5 hours to look around

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