Palacio de Bellas Artes
Overview
 
The Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts) is the most important cultural center in Mexico City
Mexico City
Mexico City is the Federal District , capital of Mexico and seat of the federal powers of the Mexican Union. It is a federal entity within Mexico which is not part of any one of the 31 Mexican states but belongs to the federation as a whole...

 as well as the rest of the country of Mexico. It is located on the west side of the historic center of Mexico City
Historic center of Mexico City
The historic center of Mexico City is also known as the "Centro" or "Centro Histórico." This neighborhood is focused on the Zócalo or main plaza in Mexico City and extends in all directions for a number of blocks with its farthest extent being west to the Alameda Central The Zocalo is the largest...

 next to the Alameda Central park
Mexico City Alameda Central
Alameda Central is a public municipal park in downtown Mexico City, adjacent to the Palacio de Bellas Artes, between Juarez Avenue and Hidalgo Avenue.-Description:...

.

The first National Theater of Mexico was built in the late 19th century, but it was soon decided to tear this down in favor of a more opulent building in time for Centennial of the Mexican War of Independence
Mexican War of Independence
The Mexican War of Independence was an armed conflict between the people of Mexico and the Spanish colonial authorities which started on 16 September 1810. The movement, which became known as the Mexican War of Independence, was led by Mexican-born Spaniards, Mestizos and Amerindians who sought...

 in 1910.
Encyclopedia
The Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts) is the most important cultural center in Mexico City
Mexico City
Mexico City is the Federal District , capital of Mexico and seat of the federal powers of the Mexican Union. It is a federal entity within Mexico which is not part of any one of the 31 Mexican states but belongs to the federation as a whole...

 as well as the rest of the country of Mexico. It is located on the west side of the historic center of Mexico City
Historic center of Mexico City
The historic center of Mexico City is also known as the "Centro" or "Centro Histórico." This neighborhood is focused on the Zócalo or main plaza in Mexico City and extends in all directions for a number of blocks with its farthest extent being west to the Alameda Central The Zocalo is the largest...

 next to the Alameda Central park
Mexico City Alameda Central
Alameda Central is a public municipal park in downtown Mexico City, adjacent to the Palacio de Bellas Artes, between Juarez Avenue and Hidalgo Avenue.-Description:...

.

The first National Theater of Mexico was built in the late 19th century, but it was soon decided to tear this down in favor of a more opulent building in time for Centennial of the Mexican War of Independence
Mexican War of Independence
The Mexican War of Independence was an armed conflict between the people of Mexico and the Spanish colonial authorities which started on 16 September 1810. The movement, which became known as the Mexican War of Independence, was led by Mexican-born Spaniards, Mestizos and Amerindians who sought...

 in 1910. The initial design and construction was undertaken by Italian architect Adamo Boari
Adamo Boari
Adamo Boari was an Italian civil engineer and architect.- Life :Boari was born in Marrara at Ferrara. He studied at the University of Ferrara and afterwards at the University of Bologna where he graduated in 1886....

 in 1904, but complications arising from the soft subsoil and the political problem both before and during the Mexican Revolution
Mexican Revolution
The Mexican Revolution was a major armed struggle that started in 1910, with an uprising led by Francisco I. Madero against longtime autocrat Porfirio Díaz. The Revolution was characterized by several socialist, liberal, anarchist, populist, and agrarianist movements. Over time the Revolution...

, hindered then stopped construction completely by 1913. Construction began again in 1932 under Mexican architect Federico Mariscal and was completed in 1934. The exterior of the building is primarily Neoclassical
Neoclassical architecture
Neoclassical architecture was an architectural style produced by the neoclassical movement that began in the mid-18th century, manifested both in its details as a reaction against the Rococo style of naturalistic ornament, and in its architectural formulas as an outgrowth of some classicizing...

 and Art Nouveau
Art Nouveau
Art Nouveau is an international philosophy and style of art, architecture and applied art—especially the decorative arts—that were most popular during 1890–1910. The name "Art Nouveau" is French for "new art"...

 and the interior is primarily Art Deco
Art Deco
Art deco , or deco, is an eclectic artistic and design style that began in Paris in the 1920s and flourished internationally throughout the 1930s, into the World War II era. The style influenced all areas of design, including architecture and interior design, industrial design, fashion and...

. The building is best known for its mural
Mural
A mural is any piece of artwork painted or applied directly on a wall, ceiling or other large permanent surface. A particularly distinguishing characteristic of mural painting is that the architectural elements of the given space are harmoniously incorporated into the picture.-History:Murals of...

s by Diego Rivera
Diego Rivera
Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez was a prominent Mexican painter born in Guanajuato, Guanajuato, an active communist, and husband of Frida Kahlo . His large wall works in fresco helped establish the Mexican Mural Movement in...

, Siqueiros
Siqueiros
Siqueiros is a Spanish surname and might refer to:People* Alejandro Siqueiros , Mexican freestyle swimmer* David Alfaro Siqueiros , Mexican painter...

 and others, as well as the many exhibitions and theatrical performances its hosts, including the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico
Ballet Folklorico de Mexico
Ballet Folklórico de México is a folkloric ballet ensemble in Mexico City. For five decades it has presented dances in costumes that reflect the traditional culture of Mexico...

.

History

The earliest known structure on the site was the Convent of Santa Isabel, whose church was built in 1680. However, significant Aztec
Aztec
The Aztec people were certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, a period referred to as the late post-classic period in Mesoamerican chronology.Aztec is the...

 finds, such as a sacrificial altar in the shape of a plumed serpent
Quetzalcoatl
Quetzalcoatl is a Mesoamerican deity whose name comes from the Nahuatl language and has the meaning of "feathered serpent". The worship of a feathered serpent deity is first documented in Teotihuacan in the first century BCE or first century CE...

 have been found here. The convent area suffered frequent flooding during the early colonial period and development here grew slowly. In spite of this, the convent remained until it was forcibly closed in the 1860s by the Reform Laws
Reform War
The Reform War in Mexico is one of the episodes of the long struggle between Liberal and Conservative forces that dominated the country’s history in the 19th century. The Liberals wanted a federalist government, limiting traditional Catholic Church and military influence in the country...

. It was replaced by a textile mill and lower-class housing.

A section of this housing, on Santa Isabel Alley, was torn down and replaced by the National Theater in the latter 19th century. During the late 19th century and very early 20th, this theatre was the site of most of Mexico City's high culture, presenting events such as theatre, operetta
Operetta
Operetta is a genre of light opera, light in terms both of music and subject matter. It is also closely related, in English-language works, to forms of musical theatre.-Origins:...

s, Viennese dance and more. It was then decided to replace this building with a more opulent one for the upcoming Centennial of Mexican Independence celebrations in 1910. The old theatre was demolished in 1901, and the new theatre would be called the Gran Teatro de Ópera. The work was awarded to Italian architect Adamo Boari, who favored neoclassical
Neoclassical architecture
Neoclassical architecture was an architectural style produced by the neoclassical movement that began in the mid-18th century, manifested both in its details as a reaction against the Rococo style of naturalistic ornament, and in its architectural formulas as an outgrowth of some classicizing...

 and art nouveau styles and who is responsible for the Palacio del Correo
Palacio de Correos de Mexico
The Palacio de Correos de Mexico also known as the "Correo Mayor" is located in the historic center of Mexico City, on the Eje Central near the Palacio de Bellas Artes. It was built at the very beginning of the 20th century, when the Post Office here became a separate government entity...

 which is across the street. Adamo Boari promised in October 1904 to build grand metallic structure, which at that time only existed in the United States, but not to this size. The first stone of the building was place by Porfirio Díaz
Porfirio Díaz
José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori was a Mexican-American War volunteer and French intervention hero, an accomplished general and the President of Mexico continuously from 1876 to 1911, with the exception of a brief term in 1876 when he left Juan N...

 in 1904. Despite the 1910 deadline, by 1913, the building was hardly begun with only a basic shell. One reason for this is that the project became more complicated than anticipated as the heavy building sank into the soft spongy subsoil. The other reason was the political and economic instability that would lead to the Mexican Revolution. Full hostilities suspended construction of the palace completely and Adamo Boari returned to Italy.

The project would sit unfinished for about twenty years. In 1932, construction resumed under Mexican architect Federico Mariscal. Mariscal completed the interior but updated it from Boari's plans to the more modern Art Deco style. The building was completely finished in 1934, and was inaugurated on 29 September of that year. The inaugural work presented in the theatre was "La Verdad Sospechosa" by Juan Ruiz de Alarcón
Juan Ruiz de Alarcón
Juan Ruiz de Alarcón y Mendoza , one of the greatest Novohispanic dramatists of the Golden Age, was born in New Spain .-Genealogy:...

  in 1934. In 1946, the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Institute of the Fine Arts) was created as a government agency to promote the arts and was initially housed at the Museo Nacional de Artes Plasticas, the Museo del Libro and other places. It is now at the Palacio.

In this theatre, Maria Callas
Maria Callas
Maria Callas was an American-born Greek soprano and one of the most renowned opera singers of the 20th century. She combined an impressive bel canto technique, a wide-ranging voice and great dramatic gifts...

 debuted in the opera Norma in 1950.

In 2002, the Palace was the scene of the funeral of María Félix
María Félix
María Félix was a Mexican film actress and one of the icons of the golden era of the Cinema of Mexico and also one of the myths of the Spanish language Cinema for her life style and personality...

.
Since its initial construction, very little has been updated or modified. However, intensive renovation efforts were begun in 2009 for the upcoming 2010 celebrations. Much of the equipment and machinery is original from the early 20th century. Much of the technological equipment is being updated, especially in the theatre which needs computerized lights, sound systems and other improvements. Other work will improve the acoustics. Upgrades to the theatre will allow for multimedia shows which were not available before. The main hall has had no renovation or upgrade work since it opened in 1934. Renovations here will lessen the number of people the hall can accommodate but should make the area more comfortable.

The building

The palace has a mixture of a number of architectural styles; however, it is principally Art Nouveau and Art Deco. Art Nouveau dominates the exterior, which was done by Adamo Boari, and the inside is dominated by Art Deco, which was completed by Federico Mariscal. Since construction began in 1904, the theater (which opened in 1934) has sunk some four meters into the soft soil of Mexico City. The main facade, which faces Avenida Juárez, is made of white Italian Carrera marble. In the interior of the portal are sculptures by Italian Leonardo Bistolfi
Leonardo Bistolfi
Leonardo Bistolfi was an Italian sculptor, an important exponent of Italian Symbolism.Bistolfi was born in Casale Monferrato in Piedmont, north-west Italy, to Giovanni Bistolfi, a sculptor in wood, and to Angela Amisano....

. It consists of "Harmony", surrounded by "Pain", "Rage", "Happiness", "Peace" and "Love". Another portion of the facade contains cherubs and sculptures representing music and inspiration. On the plaza front of the building, designed by Boari, there are four Pegasus sculptures which were made by Catalan Agustí Querol Subirats
Agustí Querol Subirats
Agustí Querol i Subirats was a prominent Spanish sculptor, born in Tortosa, Catalonia. - Life :...

. These had been in the Zocalo before being brought here. The roof covering the center of the building is made of crystal designed by Hungarian Géza Maróti
Géza Maróti
Géza Maróti was a Hungarian architect, sculptor, painter, and applied artist.Maroti was from a rural merchant family and began his career as a woodcarver but later went on to complete studies in Budapest and Vienna...

 and depicts the muses with Apollo
Apollo
Apollo is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities in Greek and Roman mythology...

. One aspect of the Palace which has since disappeared is the "Pergola", which was located in the Alameda. It was constructed to house pictorial exhibitions for the 1910 celebrations, but it was demolished in 1973.
The interior is also surfaced in Carrera marble. It divides into three sections: the main hall with adjoining smaller exhibition halls, the theatre and the offices of the Insituto Nacional de Bellas Artes. The main hall is covered by the Marotti glass and iron roof. It and the balconies of all three upper floors can be seen from the ground floor below. In areas of the main hall, pre-Hispanic motifs done in Art Deco style, such as serpents’ heads on window arches and Maya
Maya civilization
The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established during the Pre-Classic period The Maya is a Mesoamerican...

 Chaac
Chaac
Chaac is the name of the Maya rain deity. With his lightning axe, Chaac strikes the clouds and produces thunder and rain. Chaac corresponds to Tlaloc among the Aztecs.-Rain deities and rain makers:...

 masks on the vertical light panels distinguish this interior from its contemporaries. The smaller exhibition halls are located on the first and second floors. The first floor is decorated with crystal lamps, created by Edgar Brandt and hold murals by Rufino Tamayo
Rufino Tamayo
Rufino Tamayo was a Mexican painter of Zapotec heritage, born in Oaxaca de Juárez, Mexico. Tamayo was active in the mid-20th century in Mexico and New York, painting figurative abstraction with surrealist influences....

. The Adamo Boari and Manuel E. Ponce halls hold music and literature events. And the National and International halls are for exhibitions. The second floor has smaller exhibition halls as well as murals by José Clemente Orozco
José Clemente Orozco
José Clemente Orozco was a Mexican social realist painter, who specialized in bold murals that established the Mexican Mural Renaissance together with murals by Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and others...

, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Diego Rivera, Jorge González Camarena
Jorge González Camarena
Jorge González Camarena was a prominent Mexican painter, muralist and sculptor who received the Mexican National Prize for Arts and Sciences...

, Roberto Montenegro
Roberto Montenegro
Roberto Montenegro Nervo was a Mexican painter, illustrator, and stage designer....

 and Manuel Rodríguez Lozano
Manuel Rodríguez Lozano
Manuel Rodríguez Lozano was a Mexican painter.- Biography :Rodríguez Lozano was born to Manuel Rodríguez and his wife Sara Lozano. He began a military education at the Heroico Colegio Militar, and started a diplomatic service career...

. The third floor is occupied by the Museum of Architecture. The ironwork was designed in Italy by Alessandro Mazzucotelli and in Mexico by Luis Romero Soto.

At the entrance of the theatre, there are mascaron
Mascaron (architecture)
In architecture, a mascaron ornament is a face, usually human, sometimes frightening or chimeric whose function was originally to frighten away evil spirits so that they would not enter the building. The concept was subsequently adapted to become a purely decorative element. The most recent...

s in bronze with depictions of Tlaloc
Tlaloc
Tlaloc was an important deity in Aztec religion, a god of rain, fertility, and water. He was a beneficent god who gave life and sustenance, but he was also feared for his ability to send hail, thunder and lightning, and for being the lord of the powerful element of water. In Aztec iconography he...

, and Chac, the Aztec and Mayan deities of water, which along with the rest were designed by Gianette Fiorenzo. On the arch over the stage are representations of various mythological personas such as the Muses with Apollo. This was constructed in Hungary in the workshops of Geza Maroti. However, the most impacting aspect is the stage "curtain" which is a stained glass foldable panel created out of nearly a million pieces of iridescent colored glass by Tiffany's in New York. This stage curtain is the only one of its type in any opera house in the world and weighs 24 tons. The design of the curtain has the volcanos Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl in the center. Around them is a Mexican landscape surrounded by images of sculptures from Yautepec and Oaxaca
Oaxaca
Oaxaca , , officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Oaxaca is one of the 31 states which, along with the Federal District, comprise the 32 federative entities of Mexico. It is divided into 571 municipalities; of which 418 are governed by the system of customs and traditions...

. This design was inspired by work done by artist Gerardo Murillo (Dr. Atl)
Dr. Atl
Gerardo Murillo was a Mexican painter and writer who signed his works "Dr. Atl". He was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, where he began the study of painting at an early age, under Felipe Castro...

. The theatre has a capacity of 1,000.

Events

The Palace has been the scene of some of the most notable events in music, dance, theatre, opera and literature and has hosted important exhibitions of painting, sculpture and photography. It has hosted some of the biggest names from both Mexico and abroad. It has hosted poetry events as well as those related to popular culture. Artists and companies are from all parts of Mexico and abroad. It has been called the "Cathedral of Art in Mexico
Mexican art
Mexican art consists of the various visual and plastic arts which developed over the geographical area now known as Mexico. The development of these arts roughly follow the history of Mexico, divided into the Mesoamerican era, the colonial period, with the period after the gaining of Independence...

" and is considered to be the most important theatre and the most important cultural center in Mexico. It was declared an artistic monument in 1987 by UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

. The building is administered by the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes of the federal government. The palace receive on average 10,000 visitors each week.

Two of the best-known groups which regularly perform here are the Ballet Folklórico de México Compania Nacional de Opera de Bellas Artes and the National Symphonic Orchestra. The first performs in the theatre twice a week and is a spectacle of pre and post Hispanic dance of Mexico. A typical program includes Aztec ritual dances, agricultural dances from Jalisco
Jalisco
Jalisco officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Jalisco is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is located in Western Mexico and divided in 125 municipalities and its capital city is Guadalajara.It is one of the more important states...

, a fiesta in Veracruz
Veracruz
Veracruz, formally Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave , is one of the 31 states that, along with the Federal District, comprise the 32 federative entities of Mexico. It is divided in 212 municipalities and its capital city is...

, a wedding celebration — all accompanies by mariachi
Mariachi
Mariachi is a genre of music that originated in the State of Jalisco, in Mexico. It is an integration of stringed instruments highly influenced by the cultural impacts of the historical development of Western Mexico. Throughout the history of mariachi, musicians have experimented with brass, wind,...

s, marimba
Marimba
The marimba is a musical instrument in the percussion family. It consists of a set of wooden keys or bars with resonators. The bars are struck with mallets to produce musical tones. The keys are arranged as those of a piano, with the accidentals raised vertically and overlapping the natural keys ...

 players and singers. Regular annual events include the Premio Quorum for Mexican designers in graphic and industrial materials and the Premios Ariel
Ariel Award
The Ariel is the Mexican Academy of Film Award. It has been awarded annually since 1947. The award recognizes excellence in motion picture making, such as acting, directing and screenwriting in Mexican cinema. It is considered the most prestigious award in the Mexican movie industry.- History :The...

 for Mexican films.

Individual events that have been held here are numerous. Some of these include several exhibitions of Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo de Rivera was a Mexican painter, born in Coyoacán, and perhaps best known for her self-portraits....

's work, and a number of appearances by Luciano Pavarotti
Luciano Pavarotti
right|thumb|Luciano Pavarotti performing at the opening of the Constantine Palace in [[Strelna]], 31 May 2003. The concert was part of the celebrations for the 300th anniversary of [[St...

. In 1987, Bellas Artes hosted a legendary performance of Jesusa Rodríguez
Jesusa Rodriguez
Jesusa Rodríguez is a Mexican director, actress, playwright, performance artist, and social activist.Her "espectáculos" do not necessarily adhere to traditional genre classification: they can reflect elite styles or popular; draw on Greek tragedy, cabaret, pre-Columbian, operatic traditions; take...

's Donna Giovanni, an adaptation of Mozart's opera with a female cast. Other appearances have been made by Mexican baritone Jorge Lagunes (2002) and Catalan guitarist Joan Manuel Serrat
Joan Manuel Serrat
Joan Manuel Serrat i Teresa is a Catalan Spanish singer-songwriter.Serrat is considered one of the most important figures of modern, popular music in both the Spanish and Catalan languages...

 (2003). Events that have been held here include "ABCDF Palabras de Ciudad" (2002) showing life in popular housing in photographs and video, "Bordados del Mexico Antiguo" (Embroidery of Old Mexico) showing processes, history and design, Rem Koolhaas Premio Pritzker 2000" conference and "Exchanging Views: Visions of Latin America" which was an exhibit from the collection of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros comprising 148 works by 72 artists from across Latin America in 2006.

Occasionally, the plaza in front of the Palace is the scene of protests such as those against the Iraq War in 2003 and against bullfighting
Bullfighting
Bullfighting is a traditional spectacle of Spain, Portugal, southern France and some Latin American countries , in which one or more bulls are baited in a bullring for sport and entertainment...

 in 2010.

Murals

The floors between the ground floor and the uppermost floor are dominated by a number of murals painted by most of the famous names of Mexican muralism
Mexican murals
Mexican murals are an important part of Mexican culture and history. Murals have been used for political, social, environmental, and cultural representation.-Mayans and Aztecs:...

. On the 2nd floor are two early-1950s works by Rufino Tamayo: México de Hoy (Mexico Today) and Nacimiento de la Nacionalidad (Birth of Nationality), a symbolic depiction of the creation of the mestizo
Mestizo
Mestizo is a term traditionally used in Latin America, Philippines and Spain for people of mixed European and Native American heritage or descent...

 (person of mixed indigenous and Spanish ancestry) identity. At the west end of the 3rd floor is El Hombre En El Cruce de Caminos (Man at the Crossroads), originally commissioned for New York's Rockefeller Center
Rockefeller Center
Rockefeller Center is a complex of 19 commercial buildings covering between 48th and 51st streets in New York City, United States. Built by the Rockefeller family, it is located in the center of Midtown Manhattan, spanning the area between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue. It was declared a National...

 in 1933. A giant vacuum sucks up the riches of the earth to feed the factories of card-playing, hard-drinking white capitalist thugs, including John D. Rockefeller
John D. Rockefeller
John Davison Rockefeller was an American oil industrialist, investor, and philanthropist. He was the founder of the Standard Oil Company, which dominated the oil industry and was the first great U.S. business trust. Rockefeller revolutionized the petroleum industry and defined the structure of...

 himself while workers rally behind the red flag of socialism and its standard-bearer, Lenin. The Rockefellers were not happy with the painting and had it painted over and destroyed. Rivera recreated it here in 1934. On the north side of the third floor are David Alfaro Siqueiros' three-part La Nueva Democracía (New Democracy) and Rivera's four-part Carnaval de la Vida Mexicana (Carnival of Mexican Life); to the east is José Clemente Orozco's La Katharsis (Catharsis), depicting the conflict between humankind's 'social' and 'natural' aspects.

Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes

The Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes (Museum of the Palacio de Bellas Artes) is the organization that takes care of the permanent murals and other artwork in the building as well as arrange temporary exhibits. These exhibits cover a wide range of media and feature Mexican and international artists, focusing on classic and contemporary artists.

Museo Nacional de Arquitectura

The Museo Nacional de Arquitectura (Museum of Architecture) occupies the top floor of the building, covered by the glass and iron roof. It contains exhibitions from renowned Mexican architects including models, plans and photographs of major works. This museum also arranges temporary exhibitions of its collections in other facilities. The purpose is to expose the Mexican public to the country's rich architectural heritage. Some of the major architects featured at the museum include Jaime Ortiz Monasterio, Carlos Mijares Bracho, Adamo Boari and Luis Barragán
Luis Barragán
Luis Barragán Morfin was a Mexican architect. He was self-trained.-Early life:Educated as an engineer, he graduated from the Escuela Libre de Ingenieros in Guadalajara in 1923 and was self-trained as an architect.After graduation, he travelled through Spain, France , and...

. The museum is divided into four sections called "Arquitectura-contrastes: Jaime Ortiz Monasterio y Carlos Mijares Bracho", "Corpus Urbanístico de la Ciudad de México", "Teatro Nacional de México (Plano original)" and "Teatro Nacional de México." There are also temporary exhibits on contemporary architecture.

External links

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