The Mexican Museum

Doing A Rich Heritage Justice

The history of San Francisco’s Mexican Museum is almost as turbulent as the history of the people it is dedicated to. The story starts in 1954 when a man named Peter Rodriguez took a trip through Mexico. While there, he found the artistic expressions of the Mexican people tremendously inspiring, and he felt like his home in San Francisco could benefit from a place to explore this culture. When Rodriguez returned to the United States, he started work on just such a place, and in 1975 the Mexican Museum, then located in the heart of the Mission District, opened its doors to the public.

Almost ten years later, the Mexican Museum relocated to the Marina District at the Fort Mason Center, its home for the past four decades. During that time, the museum’s permanent collection grew to hold over 14,000 paintings, sculptures, ceramics, mixed-media pieces, photographs, and other artworks. The museum’s focus also broadened from Rodriguez’s initial idea: instead of simply Mexican pieces, the Mexican Museum now holds representative work of Mexican, Chicano, and Latino artists, and it boasts work dating from the pre-Hispanic period all the way to contemporary works by some of today’s most important artists. As a result, the Mexican Museum holds the largest collection of Latino arts and culture in the United States.

The sheer size of the collection makes it impossible for the museum to display it all, and the majority of the art sits in storage, occasionally rotating through the galleries in a comprehensive “Gem Series.” This problem will see resolution within the next few years: The Mexican Museum recently became a Smithsonian affiliate (a distinction that no other San Francisco museum possesses) and this means greater exposure to the public. In order to accommodate the growing number of visitors, the museum has begun work on a new location, nearly four times the size of the current building. They hope to move within the next several years.

In the meantime, the Mexican Museum is still most certainly open for business. Visitors will enjoy seeing work from such divergent artists as David Alfaro, Tatiana Parcero, Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, and Rupert Garcia, as well as visiting exhibits featuring Latino artists from all artistic periods.

Admission to the Mexican Museum is free — they accept donations, and open noon to 4:00pm, Wednesday through Sunday. They are closed most holidays. More information can be found at, or by calling 415-202-9700.

View Larger Map