Monday, March 19, 2012

The best thing in Mexico City.

How can there be just one? And how would I know? I've only been here for five days. But I'm not the only one who thinks so, and with all due respect to the Museum of Anthropology, the food, and the general fabulousness of this place... this is it: the Museo de Juguete Antiguo, or MUJAM, the Antique Toy Museum. Not many visitors to D.F. ever hear of it.

Japanese-Mexican architect Roberto Shimizu began collecting in 1955 as a child, then at flea markets, bazaars, scrap merchants and from a network of suppliers. Today Shimizu has millions of toys – the biggest and most important collection in all of Latin America, with pieces that span the 19th and 20th centuries.

Shimizu deliberately located his museum in a working-class neighborhood, Colonia Doctores, a place people go to buy stolen car parts. He calls it “a live museum for living Mexicans.” And rather than charge admission, Shimizu has kept the entrance almost free, even though he has no public or private financial support for the enterprise. “I want to show Mexican youth that old toys are truly creative and they encourage sociability,” he says, complaining about the isolating nature of today’s videogames.

The museum is a family-run business. Shimizu’s son, Roberto Shimizu Jr., organizes visits and events, like the popular collectors’ fair, Collec. Twice a month, collectors of all sorts converge in an empty floor of this museum to exchange their ideas, objects and obsessions. Anyone can sign up for Collec and have a stand. Emerging Mexican artists showcase their work next to comic collectors, publishing houses and freelance designers. All sorts of aficionados and treasure hunters come to this unique fair to explore and discover.

The museum's community outreach extends to graffiti artists, who are engaged to ornament the outside of the building and work on other projects in the courtyard. Famous graffistos from all over the world come to contribute, among them Broken Arrow and Roa from Ghent, Belgium.

The place is hard to fathom: three floors of a large building, completely packed with displays wrought from salvaged objects, all designed by Shimizu and built by his workers and the neighborhood craftsmen.

 Sorry for the out of focus images. Dark in there.

Founder Roberto Shimizu.

Entrance to MUJAM

Shimizu cannot resist salvage, and continues to collect, no matter what the size.

Roa from Ghent, Belgium – the artist who does rats in the abandoned NY subway tunnels.

Broken Arrow

Shimizu builds his own displays out of salvaged objects.

In a jukebox...

Lenses magnify and flatten his arrangements...

... in an oil drum rocket ship.

Worlds inside worlds...

... linked to bicycle mechanisms that cause them to spin.

Salvage from a "negro" night club. Once a month, bands play in his mouth.

Display of the Sad Dolls.

Shimizu likes to spoof "fine" art: Duchamp.
Damien Hirst :) and friend, artist and awesome guide Forrest Kahil Perrine. From Port Orchard, living in D.F.

Cantinflas display.

Cantinflas movie set (he's in striped shirt near the center.)

Toy typewriters!

Many many Mexican toys.

Many many creepy masks.

Mexican masked wrestlers (luchadores) at a Mass.

German doll house furniture on steroids.

Fish displayed in a fish tank.

Luchadores of the world.

Strange doll and purse fantasy. And watering cans.

Betty Boop land. Another whirling display, powered by bicycle gears.

And the
pieza de resistencia: 
9/11. The World Trade Center and the two jets.

A jet interior. (Sorry for the out-of-focus image.)

Only in Mexico.

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