SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco is getting another cultural treasure: a world-class museum to showcase the largest collection of Mexican and Latino art in the nation.
A dedication ceremony was held recently for the new Mexican Museum, the realization of a dream by Mexican-American artist Peter Rodriguez, who opened the city’s first museum for Latino art in a Mission District storefront in 1975.
Rodriguez started a collection that now has more than 16,000 pre-Columbian, colonial and contemporary works of Mexican and Latino art.
Rodriguez, who died July 1 at 90, never lost hope the unique museum would be built, his family said.
“My uncle worked tirelessly, and with passion and drive, to personally demonstrate that, as a Mexican-American, we can achieve any dream by ourselves,” said Irene Christopher.
The 60,000-square-foot Mexican Museum will be the downtown home of the collection that includes 800 works of Mexican folk art donated by the family of Nelson Rockefeller and pieces by Mexican muralist Diego Rivera and painter Miguel Covarrubias.
The new museum is set to open in the spring of 2019. Most of the art is now in storage, though some pieces are exhibited at the tiny current site in the Fort Mason area of San Francisco. The museum moved there after the Mission District storefront closed.
With 39 percent of California’s population identifying as Latino, the museum will be a place where they can learn about their culture, said Andrew Kluger, who became chairman of the museum board five years ago and helped raise $30 million needed for the building.
“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 said.
The four-story Mexican Museum will be housed at the bottom of a luxury condo tower in Yerba Buena Gardens, nestled between historic St. Patrick’s Church and the Contemporary Jewish Museum.
The Mexican Museum is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. One of its first exhibits will be “Frida and I,” a children’s exhibition about the life of Frida Kahlo.