The Soumaya Museum opened its doors to the general public in its new building located at Carso Plaza.
March 29, 2011. Mexico City.

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Questions and answers round

Question: The Rodin’s copy at your back… Would you bring Rodin’s original works to be admired by Mexicans?

CSH: It is not a copy; it is an original one, a real Rodin’s sculpture. As you know, bronze sculptures are used to be copied in an authorized way. Number of copies varies, according to the artist’s will. In respect to Rodin’s sculptures, the Rodin Museum of Paris is authorized to make 12 copies out of the original work since 1964.

Rodin’s The Thinker was originally melted in three sizes. The one at my back is the bigger one. There is a small one too, which Rodin made to be put in The Gates of Hell, and 86 copies were melted out of it. Out of the marble The Kiss there are three original pieces.

–How many Rodin’s authorized copies have we?

Alfonso Miranda: Just two out of 300, sir, they were melted after Rodin’s time.    

Question: Mr. Slim, you stand for world-model entrepreneur. What remains to be made by you regarding culture and vision?

CSH: Education and health care –that is human capital creation– stand for our most important programs. We must be able to compete with many other countries and activities. What we need is human formation: education, health care and culture.

Regarding Soumaya Museum, we are going to keep it open to share our art collection and space. In the near future we will bring art collections from other cities to exhibit them temporarily and keep lending our own collections to other museums as usual. Our Rodin collection has been exhibited in many Mexican and Latin American cities. What we need is a little more promotion, rather permanent promotion because we are going to exhibit our collections as much as we can.

Question: As to my knowledge, your foundation is interested in buying and exhibiting newer Mexican and emerging art in general. What about it?  

CSH: Our art collection is mainly classical art. Contemporary art will be the concern of Jumex Museum, our neighbor. So, we will exhibit and promote both classic and contemporary art, and encouraging young artists too. Jumex Museum has a big collection; now it has a new and more accessible seat.

Question: Mexico is now shaken by serious violence and insecurity crisis. Most of people engaged in culture activities sustain that the only way to overcome it is culture. What do you think about it? What culture means to you? Is Soumaya Museum standing for your own contribution?

CSH: Culture stands for one of Mexico’s salient traits. It has functioned as a magnet for foreigners and Mexicans as well. As I have said, human capital is critical for the new civilization. Human capital means health care, education and culture.

Mexican culture will keep loyal to its own roots, yet it is evolving by transforming and strengthening itself. Knowing universal and Mexican art helps us to develop our own sensibility, and sensibility helps us to learn and appreciate universal and national work.

That museum is open for all of the Mexicans and foreigners for free. We want to share our collections and harbor other ones.

Question: What is your preferred art work in that museum? What art works would you like to harbor in Soumaya Museum?

CSH: Museums life is nurtured by temporal exhibitions. This one will harbor many of them.

It is hard to choice a single art work for me. In choosing a single one I would get out many others that I like much. It is like having six sons; you couldn’t name your preferred one.

Question: What is your preferred sculpture?

CSH: Many of them. Michelangelo’s Pietas, The Thinker, The Kiss, The Shadows, Eve, Dali’s Christ… I could name twenty sculptures at least. Regarding paintings I like many in that museum. You would find hard to choose a single one, El Greco’s The Holy Family, by instance, a great art piece.

Question: Have you a plan for the rest of Mexico, I mean for people unable to travel to Mexico City, and for other countries?

CSH: I have said what we have done. The Rodin collection has been exhibited in most of the main Mexican cities. We will follow exhibiting the Soumaya Museum’s collections across Mexico and other countries.

We have made exhibitions in Chile, Peru, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Brazil… We have collaborated in restoring a famous Siqueiros’ mural in Buenos Aires, which has been already moved to Casa Rosada.

Question: Have you a plan to exhibit your art collection in the United States?

CSH: In fact, we already have exhibited it in San Antonio, San Francisco, Washington and about 20 American cities.

Alfonso Miranda: We have exhibited in Spain and, thanks to our advisor Mr. Alejandro Massó there are many other projects on the making.

We have also lent art collections to France and many Asian cities. We are especially interested in exhibiting our collections in Latin American cities which hardly could see them otherwise.

In 2006 we made exhibitions in Madrid and Bilbao. For the first time the Spanish public could see great New-Hispanic and European art works along in a single exhibition.

“The Rodin Era” exhibition was seen by 60% of Panama’s population. We have exhibited our collection in many spaces and countries.

Question: What about projects ahead?

CSH: Basically, we will keep offering that space and sharing our collections. In the near future we will bring temporary exhibitions from other museums and making itinerant ones in many cities and countries.

Question: What is that it makes that museum unique?

CSH: I wouldn’t boast about its uniqueness, yet its architecture is superb and its spaces are fantastic. It is a world-class seat. Its collection includes Mexican colonial art, great universal works, landscape and impressionist painting… I would prefer hearing an art expert…

Alejandro Massó: In spite of Mr. Slim humility in refusing to credit special merits to himself, I feel honored as a visitor. I come from Spain and I already am in the face of one of the ten or twelve one-man-created great art collections in the whole world. It stands for the equivalent to the great art collections made by American industrialists who, in the manner of 19th century’s French and British aristocratic houses, did create personal art collections, then transformed into great museums. I’m not going to mention them now; just I want to say that they are echoed by Franz Mayer Museum here in Mexico City. They are the fruit of personal efforts which eventually grew as first-class world art collections.

Mr. Slim’s collection stands for one of them because of its endowment and Mr. Slim’s tenacity to get superb, interesting and rare art pieces, not usually available in the art market, so it is very difficult to obtain them. That is a consuming task.

That’s why Mr. Slim and wife effort seems admirable to me. I feel astonished by his personal decision to build a seat like this, arranging the art collection in so smart way, keeping it open to everybody and, above all, smart and pliable inner design, which it has no fixed walls, so it is adaptable for exhibitions. Spaces can be created according to the material to be exhibited.

For that reason I insist that, in its field, this is one of the greatest museums in the whole world. Mexico should be proud of such a collection.

Question: Are you going to exhibit your collection in other Latin American countries to attract new public?

CSH: Sure of course; it is just a matter of planning and promotion. In the tenth anniversary of Soumaya Museum Plaza Loreto we attracted many people. We are planning special promotions to attract many people more.

Question: Mr. Massó: In a world-wide comparison, what museum could be matched to this?

Alejandro Massó: I would recall the little known Athanasius Kircher collection. Kircher was a 17th century’s jesuit who collected all scientific and artistic objects he could in a superb building in Rome. It stands as an individual prowess. Roman people were proud of it.

In respect to contemporary museums, I’m going to talk as a Spanish: I would compare it to the Lazaro Galdiano Museum, except for the building buque, and to the Romanticism Museum, recently inaugurated in Madrid.

CSH: I want to thank Alejandro Massó words and advice. Thanks to his advisory we have improved many aspects of the museum. I want to underline that this building has been built on private real state with both private construction and capital to exhibit a private collection which will remain so to be admired for free. We haven’t had fiscal support neither fiscal deductions. All is 100% private.


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