Diego Rivera 2. The address of the iconic home and artist studio of Diego Rivera echoed in my mind for a second as I contemplated its significance. Who else do I know whose address bears their name? No one. Wow.
I arrived at the famous home with few expectations, despite a bit of fascination about the address. Curiously, very few guides to Mexico City had mentioned visiting Diego Rivera’s home, while all of them had included Frida Kahlo’s childhood home as a must-see.
I’m still not sure why this is, but I must admit, it was a pleasure making the visit to Diego Rivera 2, otherwise known as Casa Estudio Diego Rivera, without huge crowds. Instead of the hustle and bustle that comes with the typical tourist must-sees, I found a very relaxed indoor/outdoor space with friendly staff, a moderate amount of visitors, and a lot to see.
With incredible architecture, splendid history, and personal and artistic objects galore to take in, I could have easily spent a half-day here.
The more I explored the spaces, the more modern they felt. So when I discovered they were built in 1932 by architect Juan O’Gorman as one of the first examples of functionalist architecture, I was floored. They seemed like they could have been built yesterday.
Separate buildings for Frida and Diego’s living spaces and studios were created, connected by a suspended walkway, which was especially helpful during their short period of divorce. Ironically, the bridge was apparently intended to represent the bridge of love between the two.
Frida’s building is blue, while Diego’s is red. I was struck by how tiny Frida’s space was, which actually made me feel a bit of sadness, not understanding the reasoning behind making her space so relatively small. I struggled to follow the supporting materials around the space, all written in Spanish, so it is possible that some explanation existed that I was not privy to.
Despite my disappointment in what I inferred was an inadequate space for Frida, my spirits were lifted by my infatuation with Diego’s red building. Multi-leveled, with his moderate living quarters on a lower level, and a huge, windowed loft of a studio on an upper level, I felt like a personal guest of Diego’s for the afternoon.
My visit to the museum quickly became a trip inside some of the most intimate aspects of Rivera’s life,
and my love of the architecture became secondary to the joy I got from the objects inside the red and blue buildings.
The other guests helped bring the experience to life, too, from this little girl that danced her way around Diego’s personal art collection as well as displays of his own work, to this little boy who looked shyly up at Diego’s surprisingly small twin bed as his family followed a tour guide through the house.
My eyes even got a little misty looking at his paintbrushes piled next to his easel, and his powdered paint pigments stacked neatly on the shelf.
Diego lived in this space till the day he died, and the museum was established by presidential decree in 1981, 24 years later.
I found myself not wanting to leave the museum. I hovered a bit, snapping more photos and watching the bits of construction happening on the site. At a certain point, every construction worker seemed to be alerted to my presence and posing for my photos, which I took as a cue it was time to leave.
On a recommendation of a New York Times article on Mexico City, I darted across the street to the San Ángel Inn, which shared the Diego Rivera address, number 50. Not only is the inn quintessentially gorgeous, dripping with Mexican charm, but Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera were regulars here.
It was special stepping into their routine as I made the quick walk across the street, chatted with the maître d’, and took my spot facing out into the lush courtyard. I had a house margarita, of course.
The staff were so nice, yet had a hard time grasping my vegetarian-ness, trying to convince me to try the insect eggs on the menu, a local delicacy. I opted for the guacamole instead. I must admit, I do love to be pampered a bit when I travel. I will rough it, as long as I can look forward to a treat like this.
I can understand why Frida and Diego came here all the time. I wondered how many times they had enjoyed a house margarita, sat in the chair I was sitting in, and who they liked to talk to when they came.
After I finished my snack, I was more than refreshed. I found myself wanting to linger longer, enjoying the people-watching and the beautiful architectural and landscape details in the courtyard. But my appointment at the Frida Kahlo museum was approaching, and I didn’t want to be late.
Stay tuned for my next blog post, continuing on to Frida’s museum and the Leon Trotsky Museum.