Oaxaca Museums

From its ancient roots and colonial treasures to modern-day craftspeople, this city lives and breathes art and culture. And Oaxaca’s museums brilliantly showcase it so you can easily take it all in.

Macedonio Alcalá s/n, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca, Oax., Mexico
Housed in the former Dominican convent of Santo Domingo, the museum of Oaxacan cultures offers a glimpse at the state’s history from ancient times through the colonial period, and into the modern day. The building was beautifully restored and opened to the public in 1998. You should go in even if just to see the interior of this stunning building, but the exhibits are also excellent. The highlight of this museum is the Treasure of Tomb 7, an offering that was found in a tomb at Monte Alban archaeological site. This is the greatest treasure ever found in Mesoamerica, and contains exquisitely crafted gold jewelry, as well as precious stone, intricately carved bone and more.
Av. José María Morelos 503, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca, Oax., Mexico
This museum is housed in a restored 18th-century mansion and contains the private collection of pre-Hispanic art of Oaxacan artist Rufino Tamayo. He collected these objects on his travels through Mexico, and he wanted to be sure that this heritage remained in the country and that it be on display for the general public to see and appreciate it.

Tamayo selected the pieces based on their artistic, rather than archaeological, value. The exhibits are not grouped in chronological or geographical sequence but rather according to overarching themes. The collection contains around one thousand pieces, all of them interesting, but a few of them are exquisite, such as a ceramic model of the Mesoamerican ball game.
Av. de la Independencia 607, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca, Oax., Mexico
The fact that Oaxaca is a hub of art and creativity is evident almost everywhere you look. Besides the abundance of beautiful architecture and colorful folk art and handicrafts, several important contemporary artists hail from Oaxaca, including three internationally renowned painters: Rufino Tamayo, Rodolfo Morales and Francisco Toledo. The Oaxacan painters museum is a space that celebrates the art and creativity of these, and other less well-known but also extremely talented artists from this southern Mexican state. The two-story restored colonial mansion that houses the Oaxacan painters museum has elegant arches surrounding a central courtyard, and rooms with pristine white walls that form the backdrop to paintings and other artwork. There’s no permanent collection here, but temporary exhibits run throughout the year, and the space is also used for workshops and courses.
Porfirio Díaz 115 esquina con Morelos Calle del General Porfirio Diaz
Oaxaca’s Casa de la Ciudad is housed in a big yellow building just a couple of blocks from the Zocalo. On the ground level you’ll find the Andres Henestrosa memorial library which contains over 50,000 volumes, and some rooms that are used for temporary exhibits. Make your way across the central patio and up the steps to the second floor, where you’ll find, among other things, a room that has two very large aerial photos (about 12 square feet) of Oaxaca city on the floor. One of the photos was taken in 1990, and the other in 2006. They call this the “foto-piso” (photo-floor). It’s fun to walk over it and pick out landmarks and see how Oaxaca has changed over time. The Casa de la Ciudad often has exhibits dealing with urbanization and architecture, and it also hosts workshops, concerts and other events. It is open daily from 9 am to 8 pm, and admission is free.
Av Independencia s/n, Vista Hermosa, 68247 San Agustín Etla, Oax., Mexico
Oaxacan artist Francisco Toledo spearheaded the project of converting an abandoned textile mill into an arts center, which was inaugurated in 2006. The Centro de las Artes San Agustin (CASA) hosts exhibits of a variety of media, as well as courses and workshops. It is an ecological arts center and encourages artistic creation using environmentally friendly processes, and community involvement. CASA is located in San Agustin Etla, about a twenty minute drive from Oaxaca city. It is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm, and if you go on Sundays, there is an organic market on the grounds (Mercado Los Eucaliptos).
Plaza de la Constitucion, lado sur Zocalo
The building in which the Museo del Palacio is housed was the main building of the Oaxaca state government until it was converted into a museum in 2008. Located on the south side of Oaxaca’s Zocalo, the green quarry stone building itself is quite lovely. There’s a mural on the main staircase that was painted by Arturo Garcia Bustos that depicts three phases of Mexican history, with the prehispanic period depicted on the far left, the colonial period on the right and independent Mexico in the central panel. Benito Juarez and his wife Margarita Maza figure prominently in the central panel, and other important figures in Mexican history are depicted below them. The museum has many interactive exhibits that are good for kids, as well as some interesting displays about Oaxaca’s natural and cultural diversity.
Miguel Hidalgo (Av. Hidalgo) 907, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca, Oax., Mexico
The restoration of the first Dominican convent in Oaxaca was completed in 2011, when it opened as the San Pablo Academic and Cultural Center. The building dates back to 1529, but over time it served as homes, shops and a hotel. The restoration project took six years to complete, and has incorporated sustainable elements such as a rainwater catchment system and solar panels. The cultural center has a few different areas, including a reading room for kids, a few different exhibit areas, classrooms, a restaurant and cafe. The main mission of this center is to promote Oaxaca’s indigenous languages and culture. Besides hosting a variety of exhibits, courses and workshops throughout the year, San Pablo hosts some special events such as the Posada del Cacao in December, and the festival of the 7 moles in July. The site also serve as headquarters of the Alfredo Harp Helú Oaxaca foundation, which sponsored the building’s restoration.
Exconvento de San Pablo Hidalgo 917 esquina con Fiallo
Oaxaca’s textile museum opened its doors in 2008. The museum is set in a lovely restored colonial mansion in Oaxaca city’s historical center on the same grounds as the San Pablo cultural center. The museum celebrates Oaxaca’s rich and varied textile traditions, and also hosts occasional temporary exhibits showcasing textiles from other parts of the world. It is a small museum, but the collection is well-selected and there are frequently conferences and workshops given here as well. The gift shop at the front of the museum has beautiful high quality textile pieces and other items for sale.
Calle Macedonio Alcalá 202, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca, Oax., Mexico
The 17th century mansion that houses Oaxaca‘s contemporary art museum is commonly referred to as “La Casa de Cortes,” although it was in fact built over a century after the death of Hernan Cortes, it is certainly lavish enough to have been worthy of the great conquistador. The front of the building has the family seal of the Lazo de la Vega and Pinelo families, who were the home’s original inhabitants. The state government acquired the building in 1986 and it housed a different museum prior to the opening of the MACO (Museo de Arte Contemporareo de Oaxaca) in 1992. The museum has 13 exhibit rooms, with the permanent collection on the second floor, and downstairs areas are used for temporary exhibits, which change frequently.
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