Next to the cathedral and inside one of the city’s most historic buildings, the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo Ateneo de Yucatán (MACAY) offers a great place to escape the sweltering heat of the sun and take in some thought-provoking modern art. During our visit, we were almost as impressed by the fabulous air-conditioning as by the bizarre pieces hanging on the walls.
The museum is totally free to visit, so even if contemporary art isn’t your thing, there’s no reason not to take a quick tour. This building was constructed in 1573 as an ateneo, or private cultural institution, on the orders of the Bishop Diego de Landa. Perhaps he was still feeling a tinge of guilt for having destroyed every Maya codex, book and idol he could get his hands on during 1562’s notorious auto-da-fé in Maní. Regardless, the ateneo is a striking building, and has found a perfect modern purpose as home to the MACAY.
The exhibition begins on the upper floor in a series of rooms organized around a courtyard. Most of the rooms are dedicated to temporary collections, focusing mostly on contemporary Mexican artists, though there are a couple permanent exhibitions. One features the work of Mérida’s own Fernando Castro Pacheco, one of Mexico’s greatest muralists. We had already been impressed by his work in the nearby Palacio del Gobierno, and were happy to see more.
A tour through the museum can take about an hour, depending on your tolerance for contemporary art. For me, it was a mixed bag; some of the exhibitions were truly fantastic, while others inspired “what a load of rubbish”-type sentiments. But still, I was disappointed when, after walking through the sculpture garden, our tour had come to its conclusion. The MACAY is quiet, cool and interesting, and spending time there is a pleasure.