Mérida, real and fake


Carlos Mérida (1891 - 1984), a Guatemalan artist who spent most of his career in Mexico City, was a contemporary of Diego Rivera’s. He began doing work somewhat like Rivera’s, in the sense of rejecting some techniques and traditions of European painting and depicting Guatemalans in their native dress.


Through March 17, at the Museo Nacional de Arte in the Centro Histórico, there’s a retrospective exhibition of Mérida’s work. He became most famous as an abstract painter, and if you look at the trajectory of the work, it’s fascinating to see how he “progressed” from the nativist imagery to the abstraction.

Carlos Mérida painting / Mexico City David Lida Blog

I became the proud owner of what I thought was a Carlos Mérida, bought for about $30 USD at a flea market in the Colonia Doctores a few years ago. Even before I showed it to my friend, the art historian James Oles, he laughed in my face, making it clear that there was no such thing as a $30 Carlos Mérida to be found in a flea market.


In any case, feel free to feast your eyes and admire my fake Mérida. Or go to see the real ones in the MUNAL. It’s one of my favorite museums. In my opinion, the Art Nouveau staircase alone is worth the price of admission, a little more than $3 USD at the current exchange rate. I often take people to see the stairs on my tours of the centro histórico.