Based on the collection of a Mexican business woman, Dolores Olmedo, the museum houses pre-Hispanic, colonial, folk, modern and contemporary art, as well as the greatest collection of works by Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Angelina Beloff. The impressive collection includes over 160 paintings and nearly 6000 pre-Hispanic figurines and sculptures.
Recently new areas have been added to the museum. These include the so-called “private rooms” of Olmedo, where she kept original decorations for her house, such as ivory, china, and artworks by artists whom she nurtured in her later years, including José Juárez and Francisco Guevara. There is also an excellent gift shop and a cafeteria on the premises. The museum has an associated Facebook group and a Twitter feed.
The five-building complex contains paintings, including 145 by Diego Rivera and 25 by his wife Frida Kahlo (and some of their scripts and drawings as well), nearly 6000 pre-Hispanic figurines and sculptures, as well as diverse living animals such as geese, ducks, six Xoloitzcuintles and Indian Peafowls kept in the gardens of the museum.
In 1962, Dolores Olmedo acquired a property at La Noria, Xochimilco in southern Mexico City, which she would later, in 1994, convert into the museum named after herself. She not only donated her entire collection of art, but also upon her death in 2002, she left funds for taking care of her museum, now open to the public.
Diego Rivera met Dolores Olmedo when he was already a well-known painter and she just a 17-year-old girl. He asked her if she would pose fo him and created a collection of 27 nude paintings, which he then gave to her. When Rivera was dying in the mid 1950s, Olmedo (by then a wealthy business woman) put him up in her home and helped care for him.
Years later after the nude paintings were created, the husband of Dolores Olmedo, Howard Phillips, an American publisher, discovered them, and he ordered her to return them to Rivera. Several years later, before his death, Rivera again gave Olmedo the paintings and having been grateful for her care, he also sold her a number of his paintings, as well as many works by Kahlo, who had died in 1954. Before his death in 1957, Diego Rivera designated Olmedo to administer his and Kahlo’s estates.
As far as the works of Frida Kahlo are concerned, fewer than 200 of her paintings have survived, and the collection of Dolores Olmedo Museum is the most significant private holding of her works.