In 2006 the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum changed its name to attract the national spotlight, and rightly so. The only Latino institution accredited by the American Association of Museums, it boasts one of the most comprehensive Mexican art collections in the country. The museum itself didn't change much with the renaming, and most of its seven exhibition rooms remain devoted to a crash course in Mexican aesthetic history. Its rear and side galleries rotate exhibits every few months, showing off the fruits of the institution's community partnerships and illuminating contemporary art movements both north and south of the border, the museum's programming guided by the belief that Mexican art and culture is without borders.
Much like the Chicago History Museum—who completed its own higher profile rebranding a few months earlier—the NMMA treats visitors to a living timeline of art and artifacts. From the ancient, pre-Cuauhtémoc era to the generations dominated by Porfirio Diaz and Emilio Zapata to ongoing debates over modern Mexican identity, the permanent collection is a lively inquiry into our neighbors' complex history. Museum programmers don't shy away from controversy, exhibiting 20th-century Chicano work challenging conventional mores on labor and national identity.
You can find plenty of the museum's own artifacts—exhibition books, posters, and reproductions—at its well-stocked gift shop, which also features dozens of ceramic and wire skeleton figures from the museum's perennial favorite, the Day of the Dead celebration. Admission is always free; donations accepted.
Centerstage Reviewer: Justin Sondak