Filled with folk art treasures, well-known art (including a portrait of Frida Kahlo), and a traditional Mexican-tiled cocina, Robert Brady’s home in Cuernavaca is a place you’ll want to add to your bucket list.
Located just 50-miles south of Mexico City, Cuernavaca is famous for its luxurious homes covered in bugambilia and year-round spring-like climate.
In fact, many of Mexico’s rich and famous flee here to enjoy a weekend in their extravagant vacation homes.
Surrounded by grand colonial architecture, elegant fountains, and beautiful parks, the city of Cuernavaca has captured the hearts of many, including Americans like Robert Brady.
Who was Robert Brady?
Robert Brady, was an American painter and designer from Iowa, who was born into a wealthy family and who dedicated his life to traveling the world.
His love for art, eventually led him to study at the Art Institute of Chicago and to move to Venice where he lived during the 1950s.
During this time, he spent his life visiting places like Papua New Guinea, Bali, Senegal, and more.
Brady became addicted to collecting art. In fact, his collection grew so large that it ended up occupying the majority of his Venetian home.
During his time in Italy, he was introduced to and became close friends with art collector and New York socialite Peggy Guggenheim who suggested he visit Mexico.
After taking Guggenheim’s advice and visiting central Mexico, Brady fell in love with the city of Cuernavaca––also known as “The City of Eternal Spring.”
He enjoyed the city so much, he purchased a 16th-century monastery, made it his permanent home, and filled every inch with his exorbitant art collection, including Papua New Guinean tribal masks, paintings by Frida Kahlo, Mexican colonial furniture, pre-Hispanic figures, religious artifacts, and pieces from India and the far East.
Today, his home has been visited by people from all over the world and is officially known as “Museo Robert Brady.”
How Did the Robert Brady Museum Come to Be?
The Robert Brady Museum has undergone a series of transformations over the last century, but architecturally it is recognized by it’s “torre” or tower which is raised over the main entrance.
Originally, it was known as Casa de la Torre, which was part of a Franciscan convent from the 16th century.
From 1898 to 1911, it was remodeled into an astronomical observatory by the second Bishop of Cuernavaca, Francisco Plancarte y Navarrete and after the Cristera War in 1929, the building was confiscated and passed down to a private owner named George Thatcher.
When Robert Brady took the property over in 1962, he decided to restore the deteriorating structure and to bring it back to life. While doing so, he made sure to respect the original elements of the home, including the colonial architecture––a project that took him almost 24 years.
Similarly to Luis Barragán and other notable Mexican architects of the 20th century, Brady incorporated vibrant colors in each room to give them personality and to create a unique ambiance for each space.
Museo Casa Brady Today
The ground floor has a total of 14 rooms, including the hall, bar (Brady’s favorite room), a graphic work room, terrace, dining room, and kitchen. The bedrooms are all on the second level of the house.
Every room, including the bathrooms and kitchen, includes a specific gallery and theme. One room contains an entire collection of crucifixes from all over the world––indigenous, colonial, African, Korean, and Spanish. While other rooms are filled with puppets, books, and portraits and photographs of Brady and his closest friends.
Brady had a serious love for sacred art and his collection included a variety of pieces that show the elements of both good and evil.
Brady spent the majority of each year at his home in Cuernavaca, socializing with artists of the moment like Josephine Baker, Tamara de Lempicka, Rufino and Olga Tamayo, Francisco Toledo, Dolores del Río, Rita Hayworth, Gloria Swanson, Tennessee Williams, Helen Hayes, Maria Callas, Erich Fromm, Ivan Ilich, Carlos Fuentes, and Octavio Paz.
The rest of the time during the year, he spent traveling the world surrounded by friends, which allowed him to eventually collect more than 1,300 pieces of art.
How to Visit the Robert Brady Museum
When Brady passed away, he left the house to the municipal government, asking that it become a museum for visitors. There was one condition. Everything needed to remain exactly as he left it, including his linen kaftans which needed to be stacked a special way to ensure the colors did not fade.
Just like his friend, Peggy Guggenheim who was buried in the garden of her Venetian palace, Brady and his dogs were buried in the garden of Casa de la Torre.
Today, the house remains exactly as Brady requested, and is one of the most beautiful and enchanting places to visit in Cuernavaca.
The museum is located behind the cathedral of Cuernavaca; however, it is temporarily closed to the public due to COVID-19.
Arturo Canseco contributed to this report.
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