Mexico City

The following guest post is by Houda Lazrak

A fantastic topography of fabulously executed artworks by street artists from around the world has found its way onto the rooftop of Mexico City’s Antique Toy Museum, or MUJAM. I stumbled upon this hidden space while visiting the city’s Colonia Doctores neighborhood. Soon afterwards, I had the chance to speak with the man behind the project, Roberto Shimizu, Creative Director of MUJAM.

How and when did you first become interested in street art?

It all started when I was ten years old. My father took my family on a trip to New York City.  And every time we were in NYC, we went to bookstores. My brother and I had an unlimited budget for books. It was the only place my father would let us spend money as children. The first book I ever bought was Subway Art by Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant. I was just looking for graphic stuff, but it ended up changing my life. I still have it on my desk at the museum today.

How did you become involved in the scene here in Mexico City?

I went to Japan for one and a half years after receiving my degree in Architecture in Mexico City. I moved to Tokyo to work at a high-end architecture firm, but I quickly realized that I didn’t identify with Japanese culture. I came back to Mexico City, and my father asked me to assist him with his business. He had a 5000 square foot warehouse in the Doctores neighborhood with bare walls. He gave me full access to, and it became my playground! I started by doing open calls for street artists through Facebook. I also reached out to music and theatre groups. Many noted Mexican street artists – such as Saner — first started painting here.  Other renowned artists who’ve painted here include: Ripo from Barcelona; Jaz from Argentina; Jeremy Fish from San Francisco; Pixel Pancho from Italy and Roa from Belgium. In 2007, it was dubbed the 5 Pointz of Mexico City.

And can you tell us a bit about what has happened since – in the past decade?

Once the warehouse took off, I realized I wanted to do something bigger. I invited Roa to paint an official mural on the wall of MUJAM. And in 2010, I organized the first big mural show in Mexico City with eight artists painting in different neighborhoods. That we sought permission from building owners, used cranes, and officially invited artists was very new at the time.

What triggered the start of the rooftop project Azotea Mujam. It is fascinating!

The warehouse was prime real estate, and so we had to rent it out. I couldn’t convince the new renters to keep the existing murals. Those walls were part of Mexico City’s street art history, but they wouldn’t hear it. We had to whitewash all the murals. But my intention was, and still is, to keep working with emerging artists. My father had founded MUJAM in 2006 as a showcase for his personal collection of antique toys. Today the museum houses over 40,000 pieces. Above the museum was an empty rooftop, so I decided to start Azotea Mujam and invite artists to paint up there.

Who was the first person to paint there?

Scarlett Bailey was the first artist to paint on the MUJAM rooftop in 2015. A talented Mexican illustrator living in New York City, she was a cartoonist for The New Yorker for many years. On the rooftop she painted icons of New York City’s fashion and media worlds with the Mexico City ‘hood’ as a backdrop. It was the sole work up on the roof for four months.

It seems like the entire rooftop has been painted since! How did it become so popular?

It was through word of mouth! Once the word spread, it became popular pretty quickly. I was fascinated by how much attention it received. I’ve had to whitewash some artworks to make room for others. Azotea Mujam is often the start of a collaboration between the artist and other painting projects, as well — including more prominent wall spaces in Mexico City that I organize.

How do artists react to this very unique context of a toy museum?

They love it! I think artists have a particular fascination with toys. Many famous musicians have also visited, and often when they enter the museum, they become like children. Perhaps, as artists, they are always playing.

How do you select the artists that paint on the rooftop?

I receive emails daily. I ask the artists for their portfolios. Some of them don’t have any, and that’s fine too. Like I said, I am interested in offering opportunities to emerging artists, and I’ve had very nice surprises. I am not focused on getting big names. That was never the intention of the project. What is most important to me is the relationship I develop with the artists and how they can go further from here. Regardless of how big the city projects that I organize are, Azotea Mujam is what’s most rewarding to me.

Do you encourage the artists to focus on toys in terms of the content of their artwork?

I always suggest that the artists spend a couple of days in the museum, sketching the toys they like, as that is the main theme of the rooftop. Sometimes I ask for sketches, sometimes not; it depends on the artist.

There’s a surprising variety of surfaces available for artists to paint on. Did you purposely bring in these different elements?

Yes, I added those myself to the rooftop, so there would be different options of textures and surfaces for artists to experiment on.

What’s your main goal with Azotea Mujam

To create the new generation of Mexican street artists, of both men and women. I see the rooftop as a place where seeds are planted for the future.

The space and the building itself are very interesting. Can you tell us more about its history? How it was acquired? And what have you and your family done with it since acquiring it?

MUJAM’s building was one of the most important buildings for Japanese migrants back in the mid 1900s. Many of them arrived to Mexico City with just a suitcase in hand. My father and grandfather built this building for that Japanese community to have a starting point. After that, my grandfather had the idea of importing Japanese toys; that became his business.  And it, eventually, became the building housing my father’s toy collection.

When I was up on the roof, one of the neighbors was doing laundry. So the roof is still used for practical purposes! How do these folks respond to artists painting here and sharing their work with visitors?

They love it! It was somewhat abandoned before. The artists gave it a new life. I receive many requests to host commercial events there: photo shoots, video shoots, branding events, launches… Perrier even offered to rent out the space. I always turn them down out of respect for our neighbors. I’ve only lent it to very small organizations who are themselves just starting off. I want to keep it pure.

Who are some of the other artists who have painted on the rooftop?

Poni, Paola Delfin, Atentamente una Fresa, Birdy Kids, Alaniz, Los Dos, Alegria del Prado, Gangsby, Daniel Buchsbaum, Spencer Keeton Cunningham, Nabs D, Mr. Lemonade

Have you anyone special on your wish list to paint here? 

I would love to collaborate with Os Gemeos. I like their social and political works.

The rooftop is not open to the public. How do you get people to visit it?

I don’t really try to. I want to keep it like a speakeasy. People will find it if they come into the museum and mention they like street art. We will guide them upstairs and open the door to the rooftop. Just like we did for you!

Can you tell us a bit about this neighborhood – Colonia Doctores?

Back in the 30’s and 40’s – when my grandparents moved here – it was the city’s most flourishing, residential area. With buildings designed by a French urban planner, all of the streets were named for doctors. I consider it the city’s most important district  because the government’s offices are located here. Anyone who wants to register their newborns or report a death must visit Doctores. It is home to: the biggest morgue of the city, the biggest police precinct and the first public hospital, along with the first running water. The first residential zone created by the government, there are three metro lines cutting across it. In the 1980s-90s, people started leaving. But they are coming back now! Doctores is projected to grow in the next ten years, as it is right next to the Roma neighborhood, which is now booming. The cycle of the district is very interesting.

Images

1 Alegria del Prado

2 Senkoe

Scarlett Bailey

Los Dos & Azer

Los Dos

6 Paola Delfin

7 Vale Stencil

Photos and interview by Houda Lazrak

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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The following guest post is by Houda Lazrak

While in Mexico City shortly before the devastating earthquake, Roberto ShimizuCreative Director of The Antique Toy Museum of Mexico (MUJAM) and co-organizer of Mexico City’s street art festival All City Canvas, introduced me to over a dozen murals — mainly in the neighborhoods of Roma Norte, Doctores and downtown. Featured above is by Mexico City – based Curiot who — upon returning to Mexico City after living in the US —  painted a center for youth who struggle with difficulties within the traditional school system. What follows is a sampling of several more murals, organized by Roberto Shimizu, that I saw:

Arty & Chikle, the first gay street art couple to come out in Mexico City

Valencia-based Escif — at the Plaza de las Tres Culturas, where the Tlatelolco massacre occurred on October 2, 1968. Students met in this plaza for a peaceful demonstration and reportedly hundreds of them were shot and killed when the military opened fired on them. The image depicts former Interior Secretary Luis Echeverría requesting President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz to order the shooting. Decades later, Echeverría was put on trial for the massacre.

UK-based D*Face

Mexico City-based Edgar Flores aka Saner

Mexico City-based Hilda Palafox aka Poni

LA-based El Mac on his mural: The image I painted is based on photos I took of a social activist and poet named María Guardado, who was tortured and left for dead in 1980 by government forces during the civil war in El Salvador. She was one of thousands of civilian victims of that war, during which the US-backed Salvadoran government employed death squads to kill and terrorize everyone from poor farmers to nuns to students. Maria survived and fled the country for Los Angeles, where today she is still a passionate fighter for social justice.

All photos by Houda Lazrak

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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While in Mexico City several weeks ago, I had the chance to visit GAMA, a distinctly impressive artists’ space and gallery in Colonia Hipódromo, and speak to its founder, Daniel Martinez and his partner, Kas Chudleigh.

This is such a wonderful space with so much positive energy. Can you tell us a bit about GAMA? There are quite a few people here. Who are you?

We are a group of artists that seek to nurture each other and others by collaborating, offering workshops, showcasing our work and providing opportunities for creatives.

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How long have you been in this particular space? It is ideal.

We’ve been here on the ground floor of Comitán 10, Hipódromo since June 30th.

How would you describe GAMA‘s mission?

With a particular focus on street art and urban art, we work with a diverse group of graphic designers, illustrators, photographers and muralists. We perceive the GAMA space as an education and resource center that offers a wide range of events, talks and exhibits, along with opportunities to collaborate with brands.

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Can you give us some examples of the workshops offered here?

Upcoming workshops include: watercolor painting with Diego Andrad; working with 3-D in the gif format with Chacalall, and designing illustrations with Yolka Mx.

You’ve also curated outdoor murals. I visited the one painted by Werc and Gera Luz earlier today. When did you first become interested in street art? 

In 2005 — over 10 years ago — I started creating stickers and wheatpastes. I also began following online what was happening throughout the globe, and then I spent time in Berlin and Barcelona, where I saw so much amazing art on public spaces.

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What would you say is your greatest challenge at this point?

The major one is attaining the support we need to maintain the space.

What’s ahead? Any particular projects — besides all the wonderful things happening here?

We’d like to produce a series of documentaries about some of the artists we work with. We are especially interested in the creative process. What motivates and inspires artists? We’re also interested in establishing alliances with different cultural projects in Mexico and connecting to more emerging artists.

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It all sounds great! How can folks contact you if they would like to visit or become involved?

They can contact us at contacto@gamacrea.com. They can also follow us on Instagram and on Facebook.

Images

1. Toxicómano

2. Root Rises

3. Yolka Mx

4. Werc and Gera Luz

5. Gleo

Photos and interview by Lois Stavsky 

Note: Hailed in a range of media from the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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While in Mexico City last month, I had the opportunity to meet up with Jenaro de Rosenzweig and Alejandro Revilla, founders of the hugely popular Street Art Chilango.

Just what is Street Art Chilango?

It is a company dedicated to promoting street art. Three divisions have evolved: 1. Social networking on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat; 2. Private and group tours that focus on street art in the city’s center and 3. Securing mural commissions for artists, many of whom are our friends, in both public and private spaces.

When was Street Art Chilango launched?

We launched it on March 7, 2013.

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How did you and Alex meet? And how did you end up collaborating?

We met in Barcelona several years ago, and discovered — almost at once — that we shared a love for street art.  I then went on my own to Berlin where I hung out with street artists and often ended up starting to paint at 3am in the morning! When I returned to Mexico, my ex- girlfriend suggested that I learn about the street art here in my own city. And so after taking photos, I decided to start a Facebook fan page and Alex — who had returned earlier to Mexico City —  installed an API to search for the hashtag #streetartchilango on Instagram. That’s how it all began!

And what about the tours? What spurred you to start offering tours?

Since so few people seemed to know about the amazing street art here in Mexico City, sharing it with others seemed like the logical next step. And once we began offering tours, we then set up our office here in the center of town.

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What about commissions? When and how did that start?

In October of that year, we were approached by a book publishing company, and so our first joint project was launched.

And since that first year? Who have some of your clients been?

We’ve done murals and live painting for restaurants, hotels, businesses and a range of companies from Starbucks to Facebook.

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What would you say are some of your challenges?

Continually striving to be the best we can be despite distractions and staying true to the spirit of street art when dealing with commercial enterprises.

You two have worked together now for over three years. What would you say is the key to your successful collaboration?

We are both passionate about street art, but our experiences and backgrounds are different. I studied Electrical Engineering and Finance, and Alex has a strong background in Social Media. And so we bring different strengths to Street Art Chilango.

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How can folks best contact you?

They can drop us an email at contacto@streetartchilango.com

Images 

1. Jenaro‘s famed colorful dog

2. One of Jenaro‘s signature Star Wars works

3. & 4. Commissioned murals painted by Street Art Chilango artists

5. A rotating outdoor canvas curated by Street Art Chilango, this one painted by IOU

Photos and interview by Lois Stavsky

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Among the most exuberant walls in Mexico City are those painted by both local and international artists during the city’s Meeting of Styles festival. I first discovered them on a tour with Street Art Chilangoand then I kept on returning to them. Above is the work of Ecuadorian artist Apitatan. Here are several more:

Mexican painter Diego Zelaya

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Barcelona-based writer Musa 71

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Tucson-based Cyfione

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Main Rodriguez

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Mexican artist YuzuRabia

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French artists Astro and Shane Hello

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Photos by Lois Stavsky; special thanks to Caro for identifying so many of the artists as I was posting Mexico City’s street art on Instagram earlier this month.

Note: Hailed in a range of media from the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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Shortly after I arrived in Mexico City earlier this month, I met up with the wonderfully knowledgeable Soylo. Passionate about the art that surfaces in public spaces — and always eager to explore and share insights into the minds that inspire it — he has been photographing graffiti and street art in his city since 2007. Among the artworks he introduced me to are a series of murals painted by Mexican artists for the project Memoria. Curated by Colectivo C, they surfaced last year in Azcapotzalco, an industrial district in the northwestern part of Mexico City. The mural pictured above is  by Tellaeche, who had painted here in NYC at the Bushwick Collective. Here are several more murals inspired by the notion of Memory:

Diana Bama

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To be identified

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Pyska

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Simply signed 7z00, a reference to the 43 missing Mexican students

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And Sego who had painted earlier in East Harlem

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Special thanks, again, to Soylo for introducing me to artworks I never would have found on my own!

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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While exploring the streets of Mexico City earlier this month, I meandered into Huerto Roma Verde, a huge urban community garden — largely constructed with salvaged materials — in the South Roma colony. Committed to ecological awareness and sustainable consumption, it features a range of workshops and activities for folks of all ages.  It is also rich and varied not only in its offerings and produce, but in its public art, as well. Here is a small sampling:

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One of many art pieces on its grounds

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And this one capturing its spirit–

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As seen from the outside

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Photos by Lois Stavsky

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