The US’ Largest Latino Art Collection Will Debut in SF With a Frida Kahlo Exhibit

Lead Photo: Eric Risberg/AP
Eric Risberg/AP
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Update, July 7 at 2 p.m.: The museum will no longer open with the Frida Kahlo exhibit. 

In 1975, Mexican-American artist Peter Rodriguez founded The Mexican Museum, San Francisco’s first museum dedicated to Latino art. Since then, it’s acquired more than 16,000 Mexican and Latino works of art – ranging from pre-Columbian to contemporary – which makes it the United States’ largest collection of Mexican and Latino art. Today, the museum celebrated its next phase: a permanent home. In the spring of 2019, will have a 60,000-square-foot space in downtown SF. The Mexican Museum’s life began in a Mission District storefront, and then moved to a small site in the Fort Mason area. Most of the work is currently in storage because there’s no room to display it. But when its new Yerba Buena Gardens home is completed, the pieces will have room to breathe throughout the site’s four floors.

Andrew Kluger, who became the museum board’s chairman 2011, helped secure the $30 million it needed for the building. With Latinos now outnumbering whites in the state of California, it’s an especially important time for the Latino community to have a place where they can reconnect with their culture. Kluger hopes it will serve as an educational tool for those further removed from their Latin American roots. “The new museum will allow us to educate second- and third-generation Chicano, Latino children about their heritage, which is quite important because many of them don’t know about it,” Kluger told the Associated Press.

Unfortunately, Rodriguez – who died on July 1 at age 90 – won’t get to see the fruits of his labor, but his family says the artist never lost hope that the museum would become reality. “My uncle worked tirelessly, and with passion and drive, to personally demonstrate that, as a Mexican-American, we can achieve any dream by ourselves,” Irene Christopher said. The museum, which is a Smithsonian Institution affiliate, will honor his memory.

When the museum launches in 2019, “Frida and I” – an exhibition about Frida Kahlo’s life geared toward children – will be one of its first exhibits. While you wait for this v. important exhibit, check out a few images of today’s dedication ceremony: