Art in Merida
Once a sleepy small-town art world dominated by Fernando Castro Pacheco, whose murals grace the walls of the Palacio del Gobierno (Governor’s Palace), Merida now has an emerging art scene, funded by government interest and fueled by an increasingly international population. The government of past administrations brought many artists from around Mexico and the world to exhibit here, opening additional gallery and museum spaces. The museums also expanded beyond their four walls and took art into the streets. And artists began congregating here for the same reason the rest of the world is coming to Merida … for its beauty, its peace and its way of life.
There is always a concerted effort to recognize local artists. Some of them are incredibly accomplished, some not so much. The international influence isn’t going away either … through the museums and the private galleries, artists from Cuba to New York (and beyond) are being seen and appreciated by the local aficionados. And through the influence of the many artists who have come to live here from around the world, we are glad to see that there is a steady stream of new artists.
The following is a list (probably never complete or comprehensive) of galleries and museums in the various barrios of downtown Merida. While you're here, take our poll... which do YOU think is Merida's best museum experience?
Yucatan Museum of Popular Art (Museo de Arte Popular de Yucatan)
The Yucatan Museum of Popular Art is located in the historic home of the Molina family that dates back to the early 20th century. You will find it on the corner of Calle 57 and Calle 59 facing the Mejorada Park. Once inside you pay a small entrance fee of MX $30.00 (admission fee for the general public). In the museum are examples of the traditional folk art of the people in various regions of Mexico, including traditional clothing, jewelry, pottery, masks, and ceramics, with featured exhibits changing every three to four months.
Once a family home, the museum maintains the structure of various small salas, or rooms, and there are two floors of them to explore. You also might want to swing by the gift shop on your way out, as the art is not for sale in the museum but at the gift shop you can purchase a artful souvenir from your visit.
Location: Calle 50 No.487, between 57 and 59 on Parque Mejorada, Merida centro
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00am – 5:00pm, Tuesday through Saturday Guided Tours 11:00 AM – 5:30 PM, Sunday 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Admission: General Public $30 pesos, Students w/ ID $15 pesos, children under 12 years and senior citizens have free access at all times and Sundays are free for everyone!
Galeria Merida features contemporary and fine art by local Yucatecan artists. The location is a renovated colonial, so several exhibition rooms have very high-ceilings and charming traditional tile floors. Farther back are two connected enclosed patio gardens where outdoor sculptures are exhibited and where events are held.
The gallery is run by partners Paula Seivert, an expat from New York who came to Merida in 2002, and Ivan R. de Leon, a professional photographer born and raised in Merida. Their ever-changing exhibits include painting, sculpture, garden sculpture, multimedia and photography. You might also find local artists using the outdoor space in the back for workshops and studios.
Location: Calle 59 #452A between 52 & 54
Phone: (999) 924-0117
Hours: Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Saturday 10:00 AM -3:00 PM. Closed Sunday and Monday.
The Yucatan Music Museum (Museo de La Canción)
The Music Museum is a hidden gem of a museum that is not talked about much in guide books for English-speaking tourists. It is true that none of the signage or literature in the museum is in English, but if you have a smattering of Spanish, you can walk through the museum and be in awe of the vast history and importance that Yucatecan music has had nationally and internationally in the past. The music that you hear on the streets, in the trova bars and on KYUC (92.9 FM) today was born during Merida's bella epoca in the early 20th Century. This was music that was heard around the world and made many Yucateco musicians famous.
The museum is housed in yet another beautiful old home, surrounding a large open courtyard that is the site of outdoor concerts on occasion.
Location: Calle 57 # 466 x 48 y 50
Hours: Tu- Fri 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Sat-Sun 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. Closed on Mondays
Admission: $20 pesos
The Centro Cultural de Merida Olimpo, most commonly referred to as just the Olimpo, is a cultural institute in Merida, and is located in the center of downtown just across from the Plaza Grande. The Olimpo not only houses the city’s very important and well-known Arcadio Poveda Ricalde Planetarium on the lower level of the building, but also contains a bookstore , a café restaurant with outdoor tables and a multi-roomed art exhibition space. The Olimpo was once an historic building, similar to the Ayuntamiento (Municipal Building) next door, but was torn down and rebuilt in the mid-20th century. The large space is quite modern and is an ongoing setting for art exhibits, films, talks and small conferences.
Location: Corner of Calle 62 & 61, Merida centro
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday: 10:00am – 8:00 pm
Governor's Palace (Palacio del Gobierno)
Striking murals line the walls of this turn-of-the-century government building. The murals tell the quite dramatic history of the Yucatan and were painted by the aforementioned famous Yucateco painter, Fernando Castro Pacheco. The artists still lives in Merida and continues to paint in his distinctive style, which many have copied but none have equaled. The murals which are on display here were completed between 1971 and 1979 and are probably the most outstanding examples of the artist's work. In addition, the dramatic visions of the Yucatan that the murals depict are the manner in which many visitors and residents are introduced to the unique history of this area.
Location: Corner of Calle 61 and Calle 60, Merida centro
Hours: Almost all the time, every day. Government building.
Website: Read about the murals and Fernando Castro Pacheco on Wikipedia
Galería del Pasaje Picheta
Tucked inside an indoor shopping mall next to the Governor's Palace is a small gallery. If you're in the neighborhood, stop by!
Location: Inside the Pasaje Picheta, next to the Governor's Palace on Calle 61
Hours: 11 AM to 8 PM, Monday through Sunday
The MACAY is the central repository of modern (post-colonial) art in Merida. MACAY stands for Museo de Contemporaneo Ateneo de Yucatan (Yucatan Museum of Contemporary Art), and it is located within a government-owned building in the center of downtown, on Pasaje de la Revolucion. The large historical building was once the city’s armory and construction dates back to the mid 1500s. It was officially born as the MACAY after the local community petitioned for a place to host a city art museum, a charter which it takes very seriously.
The museum displays permanent exhibitions of three well-known local artists, an educational exhibit that walks the viewer through the world history of art, and several spacious (and air-conditioned) salas with temporary art exhibitions that change quarterly.
The entrance to the museum is reached through a pedestrian walkway (the aforementioned Pasaje) that is ornamented with an ever-changing outdoor sculpture exhibit, a part of the city’s outdoor sculpture efforts.
Once inside the museum, turn left to go to one of the temporary exhibit spaces, or go into the garden and up the stairs to see the majority of the exhibition rooms. Exhibits feature local, national and international artists, with a preference for artists from within Mexico. There is a small library and coffee shop downstairs inside the museum. Before you move on, take a moment to enjoy the lovely garden with flora of the region located in the center of the building. On your way out, stop by the gift shop and pick up a memento from your visit.
Location: Entrance on Calle 60 between Calle 61 and 63.
Hours: Wednesday – Monday 10:00am – 6:00pm, Friday & Saturday open until 8:00pm. Closed on Tuesday
Amaro Restaurant Gallery
This lovely restaurant with a peaceful courtyard just off busy Calle 59 has turned it’s walls into gallery space, making a great place to get a cool drink and enjoy some local art. While you sit there, you can also enjoy the historic fact that the restaurant was originally the house where Sr. Quintana Roo was born, after whom Yucatan’s neighboring state was named. You can also often enjoy live music.
Location: Calle 59 #507 x 60 y 62
Hours: 11:00 am to 2:00 am
Merida City Museum (Museo de La Ciudad)
The Merida City Museum is in the former post office building of Merida, and if you are visiting the city’s central mercado, you can’t miss it! The building is not only large and beautifully designed, but with its crystal chandeliers, its paint of coral pink and its distinctive checkerboard mansard roof, it is probably one of the prettiest buildings in Merida , and one of the most perfectly restored.
The three-story museum has free admission and is air-conditioned as well (major plus on a hot day!). The ground floor is divided into two halves by a central staircase and houses the permanent exhibition of artifacts from the history of Merida. On one side of the staircase are artifacts from the Mayan city of T’ho, including a recreated ancient burial site that was found inside the city, and from the colonial period when Spanish conquistadors took over. The other section features artifacts from the various centuries in Merida after the Spanish conquest, including religious statues, fine China, decorations, clothing and other examples of life from Merida’s past. A walk up the stairs or an elevator ride will take you up to the 2nd floor, which sometimes features temporary exhibitions of modern and contemporary art from local artists. Admire the art in these lovely renovated rooms, and then walk out onto the balcony of the building and enjoy the view to the city’s downtown.
Location: Old Post Office Building At Calle 65 by 56
Hours: Tuesday – Friday 9:00am – 8:00pm, Saturday & Sunday 9:00am – 2:00pm
Website: www.merida.gob.mx/capitalcultural/galeria_arte/ and you can also read about it in this Yucatan Living article.
Galería at the University Cultural Center (UADY)
Another small art space downtown is run by the Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan (UADY), the very respectable university that has locations and schools scattered all over the Merida area. Here in downtown, they have a beautiful building across from the Jose Peon Contreras Theatre where many cultural events take place. Just off the central courtyard on the ground floor is a three-room gallery with changing exhibits.
Location: Calle 60 at Calle 57 inside the UADY building
Hours: Monday through Friday: 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Saturday: 8:00 am to 2:00 pm, Sunday: 10:00 am to 2:00 pm
Yucatan Painting Gallery (Pinocateca del Estado de Yucatan)
This tiny museum is located inside the Iglesia de la Tercera Orden, the Church of the Third Order, which faces Calle 60 at Calle 59. The entrance to the museum is on the Calle 59 side of the church. In its cavernous exhibit rooms, you can view paintings, books and various artifacts from the colonial era in Yucatan that are owned by the Catholic Church.
Location: Calle 59 between 58 and 60. Next to the Church
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm , Sunday 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Admission: $31 pesos
José Peon Contreras Gallery
Downstairs at the theatre, to the left of the main staircase, is the entrance to one half of this beautiful art space. The site of many modern and avant-garde art exhibits, the main exhibit area of the José Peon Contreras Gallery is as modern an exhibit space as you will find in Merida. The second exhibit area has its entrance on the callejon, the walk-street next to the Theatre. It is smaller but often has very interesting exhibits.
Location: Calle 60 at the corner of Calle 57, downstairs inside the José Peon Contreras Theater
Hours: Tues - Sun: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
Korean Immigration Museum
The old location of the Korean Association has been adapted for visitors to take a tour. The exhibits cover everything from the Korean immigration that was a result of the Henequen boom to the formation of associations, the Koreans' naturalization as Mexican citizens, the fusion of cultures and cultural exchange with Mexican society to the current activities of the Association and the celebration of the centennial of Korean immigration to Mexico. You can also see samples of historical promotion of immigration to the Yucatan in Korea and many other interesting artifacts.
Location: 65 No. 397 A between 44 and 46, Centro
Hours: Tuesday through Friday, 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM and 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM. Weekends 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM. Closed on Monday.
Colonia Santa Ana
In the shadow of the Hotel Aluxes, Café Chocolate is a place to eat and look at art, a cafe-gallery-antique store. Everything in the cafe is for sale, including the art on the walls, the chairs you sit in, the chandeliers, the other furniture… everything! The menu includes breakfast, lunch and dinner and features homemade fresh pasta. Parking available across Tiendas ISSTEY.
Location: Calle 60 at Calle 49, Centro
Hours: 7:00 am to 12:00 pm, Monday to Saturday, closed on Sundays
Centro de Artes Visuales
This spacious one-story museum was a secondary school in its first life. Now it has been repurposed as a showplace for changing exhibits of contemporary art and serves as the anchor for the burgeoning Santa Ana Art District.
Location: Centro de Artes Visuales del ICY (Center for Visual Arts) Calle 60 x 47 y 45
Hours:Tu- Sun: 9:00 am to 6:00 pm
La Casa de los Artistas
Just a block north of Centro de Artes Visuales, you will find the beautiful colonial that serves as both home and gallery space for the artists Melva Medina and Abel Vasquez. (Read the Yucatan Living review of these artists and their work) Walking inside their gallery, you will feel right at home in the presence of these truly gifted artists and their extraordinary creations. The space features mostly their paintings , drawings and sculptures (they are incredibly prolific) but they also showcase a few other guest artists as well (mostly from elsewhere in Mexico ). As a client and visitor, you are encouraged and welcome to take your time to take in the art that surrounds you.
Although they agree that their art is contemporary, Melva describes their art as “figurative ”. Both artists take their cues from the natural world, abstracting and simplifying in some cases, elaborating and intensifying in others. Abel ’s acrylic and watercolor paintings are colorful and somewhat primitive as befits his origins in Oaxaca. His sculptures are sensual, organic and quite stunning. Melva ’s drawings and paintings also draw from nature, but express mystery in a completely different way. Her sculptures are often spatial puzzles that make clever use of negative space. Both artists are collected internationally.
Location: Calle 60 #405 between 43 & 45
Hours: Monday – Saturday 10:00am – 2:00pm; 4:00pm – 8:00pm
La Sala Art & Design Gallery
Santa Ana art gallery specializing in contemporary art. Shows work from Alfredo Romero, Patricia Loret de Mola and others.
Location: Calle 60 #399A between 43 & 45
Hours: Monday – Saturday 9:30 am to 8:30 pm
Tel: (999) 229-3582
SoHo Galleries was established in 2008 and is named after the famous art district of New York City, the home of the owner, Adele Aguirre. SoHo Galleries is the place to go to find art from a vast range of global talent. Artists from France, Canada, India, Croatia and U.S.A exhibit here, with an emphasis on emerging artists from Cuba and Mexico. The gallery's “Artists without Borders” exhibitions and special events offer music, food and wine along with the opportunity to meet the artist in person.
Location: Calle 60 between 43 and 41 Centro
Hours: Monday- Friday 10 AM -5PM, Sat. 10Am -2PM
Phone: 999 928 5710
Palacio Canton Museum
Merida's Anthropological Museum is located on the beautiful Paseo Montejo just two blocks from Santa Ana Park. The building is called the Palacio Cantón, named after the wealthy Cantón family that built it at the turn of the 20th Century. It is Merida's most stunning example (that is open to the public) of Baroque-Mannerist architecture from that period and is exquisitely restored and maintained.
If you can tear your gaze away from the architecture, you'll be treated to a well-designed museum about the history of mankind on the Yucatan Peninsula, with exhibits ranging from bones and skulls to pottery, jewelry, stone carvings and much more. Upstairs is the temporary exhibit space. Past exhibits have included Edward Curtis photography of North American indigenous Indians and a very interesting exhibit about tattoos and body art. Downstairs is a book and gift shop.
Location: Paseo Montejo at Calle 45
Hours: Open Tuesday through Saturday 8:00 am-8:00 pm, Sunday 8:00 am-2:00 pm
Admission: $37 pesos (Free on Sundays)
Casa Museo Montes Molina
One of Paseo Montejo's most beautiful mansions was renovated and opened originally for rentals by private parties. Now that same building has been repurposed as a museum... an entire Beaux Artes mansion originally built in 1902 by one of Merida's wealthiest and most powerful families, now renovated to perfect condition, completely furnished in period pieces and open to the public. They have even added a gift shop, of course!
For security reasons, they keep the front door closed - but they are open! Wander around toward the offices in the back, and a gardener or someone will point you in the right direction.
Location: Paseo Montejo between 33 and 35
Hours: Museum and guided tours open Monday - Friday, 9 AM - 5 PM; Saturday, 9 AM - 1 PM. Closed Sunday.
Admission: $50 pesos, $25 Children
West of the Santa Ana district, near Santiago Park, is galeria tataya. The owners, Francois and Gerardo, came to Merida from Belgium and Venezuela, via London, bringing with them years of experience in antiques and art. In this two-room gallery, you can take your time to enjoy the art displayed around you. And what’s not to enjoy? The gallery is filled with hand-selected and unique pieces, ranging from high-quality artesanias (handcrafts from Mexico), to an exquisite collection of contemporary paintings, drawings, and photography. The owners speak English and are happy to talk to you about each special piece in the gallery. Their collection of Cuban art may be the largest in Merida, with works ranging from oil paintings to graphics and installations. There is also a wide variety of Mexican artists, most from D.F. (Mexico City), and always new quality Mexican handcrafts from the owners’ extensive travels around Mexico.
Location: Calle 72 # 478 x 53 y 55, Centro
Open: Tuesday – Saturday 10:00am-2:00pm, 4:00pm-8:00pm or by appointment.
Tel: (999) 9282962
Also Santa Ana location: Calle 60 # 409 x 45 and 47, right opposite Santa Ana church
Open: Monday- Friday: 10:00 am-2:00 pm, 4:00 pm- 8:00 pm; Saturday: 10:00 am to 2:00 pm
Tel: (999) 287-0685
The artist Georgia Charuhas is a prolific and gifted artist whose house is her gallery. Georgia’s paintings are uniquely soulful and her vision provides the viewer with insight and recognition of the relationship between humans, animals and the earth. Georgia will open her house to interested collectors or fellow artists. Her classical training and years of experience in art can also be contracted for art lessons and critiques.
Juan Pablo Bavio Galería
Juan Pablo Bavio, a local artist born in Argentina, has a gallery showing paintings that are mostly portraits of indigenous people. He turned his gallery into a studio and he gives classes to interested people. You can learn more about Juan Pablo and his art at his website: www.juanpablobavio.com
The paintings capture that brief moment of stillness, as we might suddenly catch our own eyes in the mirror and see ourselves as someone else. In this exhibition, the viewer moves through a series of portraits of the Yucatecan people in the act of gazing back at the viewer. The viewer is involved in that same act as they return the gaze. His theme confronts our perceptions of the Yucatan people by reflecting that act of looking back at ourselves and providing a fresh insight into how we look at art and how we see ourselves and the people around us.
Location: Calle 59, #539 x 66 y 68
Hours: M-F:11 am and 2 pm, and 4:30 pm to 9 pm. Saturday: 9 am to 2pm and 6pm to 9 pm
Telephone: 999 953 3148
Galeria La Eskalera
A very active art gallery owned by Janet Bremmer and Gerardo Gamboa. Exhibits change frequently!
Location: Calle 70 x 57 y 59 In the Barrio de Santiago, 3 doors from La Flor De Santiago.
Hours: 9:00 am to 1:30 PM, Monday to Saturday
Zoma Contemporary Art Center
The center has run as an art school for the past three years, teaching painting, sculpture and serigraphy. Additionally, the center houses a library with approximately 1000 books about mid-20th century Mexican painters. What an excellent resource! For more information visit their website here!
This center will now have on display more than 100 works by painters such as Rufino Tamayo, Raúl Anguiano, Francisco Toledo and others, specially young Mexican artists. Also works by Ernesto Novelo about bulls.
Location: Calle 69 between Calles 34 and 32
Open: By appointment. Or just stop by anytime and someone will be there to show you the works
Gallery in La'Kech
Gallery in La'Kech is a non-profit gallery on the increasingly fashionable south side of the Plaza Grande, started by photographer Barbara McClatchie. Her loft-like renovated space shows one or two-man exhibits of both new and established artists.
Location: Calle 60 # 595A between 73 and 75
Hours: By previous appointment only. Contact owner through website.
Gran Museo del Mundo Maya
This is probably Merida's newest and most spectacular museum. Built with the future in mind, this museum also has a movie theatre, a gift shop and a cafeteria. And parking. The museum itself is well designed and quite comprehensive, tracking the life of Mayans from the known beginning to the present day.
Location: Calle 60 Norte No. 299 E, Unidad Revolución Cordemex (north Merida)
Hours: 8 am to 5 pm most days
When to see art in Merida
The best days for your art tour would be Wednesday through Saturday, as some of the locations are not open on Sundays, Mondays, or Tuesdays. Museums tend to open and close earlier than galleries, so plan accordingly. Parking can be difficult in some areas, so walking or taking a bus or taxi is always a good idea.
As always, we will strive to keep this listing up to date with the most recent information, but it isn't easy. Galleries come and go, open and close. Art is alive, after all! If you know of other galleries or art venues that should be included here, please leave a comment below and we will add them to the list.
While it is indeed possible to amass a stunning art collection from local artists of varying styles, thankfully Merida now has a growing number of galleries also showing artists from around Mexico and the rest of the world. There is art here for every taste and every pocketbook.
But as we all know, there is never enough art, here in Merida or anywhere else in the Universe, to fill the soul.