The largest privately-held collection of modern Mexican art in Mexico can be found in the home of John and Dorianne Venator, in Valladolid. The couple have been indulging their passion for over 35 years and have packed their house, one of the city’s most historic properties, with over 3000 individual pieces.
Casa de los Venados, or “Home of the Deer”, is both a play on the Venator surname and a nod to the importance of the animal to the region and to the ancient Maya. Though this is a private home, the Venators open it daily at 10am for tours. They’re originally from Chicago, but after John made a fortune as the CEO of a non-profit organization, they chose to settle down in Mexico.
The villa is found just meters away from Valladolid’s main plaza, and stepping inside can be a shock to the system. Almost every conceivable inch of wall and floor space is occupied by a piece of contemporary Mexican art. The famous skeleton figure of the catrina makes frequent appearances, as does Frida Kahlo (not her works, but her likeness). There are amazing chandeliers, one-of-a-kind paintings commissioned by the Venators, strange pieces of furniture and colorful modern sculptures. I half expected to peer around the backyard and see a team of enslaved artists working on new pieces.
The Venators made sure to grace our tour with their presence, so that they could point out their latest purchases and tell us about upcoming acquisitions. They don’t seem to be pausing their obsession anytime soon, so if you’ve got a sweet tooth for Mexico’s colorful modern art, don’t pass up the chance to peek inside the doors of their one-of-a-kind house.