World's richest man turns to art with Mexico museum

Wed Mar 2, 2011 12:22am EST
 
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MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The world's richest man Carlos Slim inaugurated a massive museum in Mexico City on Tuesday to house his eclectic collection of art ranging from pre-Hispanic pieces to sculptures by French masters.

In a glitzy event hosted by TV personality Larry King, some 1,500 guests ranging from Mexico's president to Nobel Prize winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez toured the asymmetrical building that will be opened to the public later this month.

Located in the heart of one of the capital's poshest residential areas, the Soumaya museum -- named after Slim's late wife -- will host some 60,000 pieces in six exhibit rooms, making it one of the biggest in Latin America.

Slim, worth $53.5 billion according to Forbes magazine, made his fortune in telecommunications and now controls retail stores, mining and oil drilling firms. He credits his wife Soumaya, who died in 1999, for giving him his interest in art.

The museum will be home to one of the world's most important collections of Auguste Rodin's sculptures and also prominently displays works by Mexican muralists Rufino Tamayo and Diego Rivera.

President Felipe Calderon told Reuters at the event he was impressed by the museum's diversity of art.

Emilio Azcarraga, the head of Mexico's largest broadcaster Televisa, briefly attended the gathering even though the two tycoons are fiercely battling to enter each other's core markets. The fight heated up last week when Slim pulled advertising from Televisa over fees.

Designed by Mexican architect Fernando Romero, Slim's son-in-law, the building is covered with of thousands of hexagonal aluminum panels that reflect sunlight.

Slim plans to build a huge development anchored by the museum that will include offices, apartments and shops with a price tag of $750 million for the first phase of construction.

(Reporting by Cyntia Barrera Diaz; Editing by Vicki Allen)