British surrealist artist Leonora Carrington in her Mexico City home in 2010. British surrealist artist Leonora Carrington in her Mexico City home in 2010.

University completes restoration of Leonora Carrington’s home

The historic site in Mexico City's Roma neighborhood will open to virtual visits on Tuesday

With painstaking attention to detail, the Metropolitan Autonomous University (UAM) has restored and replenished the Mexico City home of Leonora Carrington, a British-born artist who called Mexico home for almost 70 years.

The 431-square-meter three-level home where the artist lived for more than 60 years before her death in 2011 will eventually open its doors to the public, but 360-degree virtual visits will be possible as of Tuesday on the Casa Estudio Leonora Carrington website.

After purchasing the home that Carrington shared for part of her life with her Hungarian-born photographer husband Emerico Weisz and two sons, UAM began the project to restore it in 2018.

Now, according to a report by the newspaper El Universal, the house appears just as it did when it was home to Carrington — an acclaimed surrealist painter and multimedia artist who was born in Lancashire, England, in 1917.

Her artworks, including her own, are displayed throughout the home; her erstwhile clothes are in her closet; black and white family photographs abound; the bookcase is filled with the books she owned and the same cooking spices she frequently used are on the kitchen shelves.

In short, the home, which is also filled with Carrington’s furniture and a wealth of other personal belongings, is just as the artist liked it.

“This is not a museum, it’s a home study. It’s an academic and cultural project,” Francisco Mata, UAM’s communications coordinator, told El Universal.

“… Lenorora Carrington lived here with her family. … The house itself is a great document [of her life]. It contains her objects, books, letters, diaries. … It contains domestic items — her hair clips, combs, glasses — and, of course, her artistic work,” he said.

Indeed, there are 45 of Carrington’s sculptures spread throughout the house, located on Chihuahua Street in Roma, a neighborhood a few kilometers west of Mexico City’s historic center.

“We know that there are Leonora museums in San Luis Potosí and Xilitla, [but] our project [shows a more] intimate [side of] Lenora’s life,” Mata said.

“What we show is everyday Leonora — the Leonora who had tea in the morning, the Leonora who got up to paint, the Leonora [who loved her] cats and plants,” he said.

“The objects in the house and their context … can be of great relevance to researchers, not just of Leonora but of the Surrealist era — of exile, of literature. For us, this space becomes a node that intersects with different sectors, not just academia but also culture and tourism,” Mata said.

Alejandra Osorio, who led the project to restore the house to its former glory, said the restoration is now 100% finished but the home won’t yet open to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The restoration, much of which was completed during 2020, included painting the home, repairing floors, building a new staircase and rewiring. All told, UAM spent about 12 million pesos (US $590,000) to purchase and restore it.

During the restoration, more than 8,600 objects were removed from the home and fully catalogued, Osorio said. Many of them will be digitalized so that researchers and others interested in Carrington’s life and work can examine them online.

The beginning of virtual tours on the website — which is already partially operational — on Tuesday coincides with the 104th anniversary of the artist’s birth. Her work and personal objects have been displayed in countless exhibitions, including recent ones in Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato.

Source: El Universal (sp) 

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