Directly opposite our hotel on the rather unpronounceable Calle Netzahualcóyotl is the stunning Museo Robert Brady, though more of a supremely stylish and very liveable (we wish) home than a museum, yet one of the most iconic cultural spaces in Cuernavaca.
The house began its life as La Casa de la Torre in the 16th Century, a Franciscan convent which was many times re-modelled over the centuries before the American artist and collector, Robert Brady, visiting Cuernavaca for the first time in 1961, fell in love with the ‘City of Eternal Spring’ and bought this crumbling building, deciding that it was here that he wanted to spend the rest of his life.
He set about restoring the house and began filling every available space, nook and cranny with his impressive and eclectic art collection, spending the next 20 or so years modifying the original architecture and turning the house into the glamourous refuge for the more than 1,400 pieces that make up his sprawling idiosyncratic assemblage.
He not only collected art and objects from around the world but people too, forming life-long friendships with an incredible number of larger-than-life personalities such as Peggy Guggenheim, Rita Hayworth, John Cage, Gloria Swanson, Tennessee Williams, Helen Hayes, Maria Callas, Octavio Paz and perhaps most incredibly, his very close friend, the legendary American/French (and oh so glamorous) singer and dancer extraordinaire, Josephine Baker. To her he dedicated one of the more lavish rooms in the house (who am I kidding – they’re all lavish), the hot pink Indian room, in which she often stayed. I read somewhere (is this true I wonder?), that bisexual Josephine Baker and flamboyantly gay Robert Brady, close pals, exchanged private marriage vows in Acapulco in 1973 – she was disillusioned by multiple failed marriages and desperate for non-romantic love – their bond lasting until her death in 1975.
Every single room in this house is jam packed with paintings (some of them his own), carvings, textiles, antiques, and folk art from all corners of the world, plus an impressive collection of Pre-Colombian artefacts to boot. Some of the Mexican artists represented here include Tamayo, Covarrubia, and Brady’s friends (from other articles I’ve read, though that would have made him quite young at the time), Rivera and Kahlo – with one particular painting, Kahlo’s Self-portrait with Monkey, 1945 also featuring. Sadly this clearly isn’t the original – too accessible in this house and not protected in any way, so the original must hang elsewhere.
Robert Brady was an accomplished artist in his own right, and the house has a number of his paintings dotted around including a fabulous painting of his good friend, the formidable Peggy Guggenheim, complete with Dame Edna-style sunglasses. She glares down at you in the stunning Yellow Room. Another wonderful picture in the Cocina is ‘Portrait of Maria, The Cook in the Casa del la Torre’, 1968. She would have had her work cut out for her given the exotic and, most probably highly demanding, guests that Brady had to the house. Stairs spiral up to the Yellow Room. A hatch opens into the poolside bar-room.
The Yellow Room is stuffed with African tribal figures, textiles and paintings including Roberto Montenegro’s Yucatán con Tigre, 1930, and the evocative ‘Popocatépetl’ by Marsden Hartley, 1932, one of my favourite paintings in this lavish house.
One room contains an entire collection of crucifixes from around the world – Colonial Mexican, African, Spanish… whilst other rooms are full of masks, papier-mâché puppets, skulls and fantastical animals, meanwhile all around are photos of the man himself, his nearest and dearest and fabulous pals.
The Mexican tiled Cocina is wonderful, again a feast for the eyes, crammed with carefully curated pots, plates, bowls and platters – a glorious riot of colour, with one hell of a picture window at the sink looking over the garden.
The garden is gorgeous, lush green and tropical. And that swimming pool – oh so tempting on this hot day, but alas strictly off limits, but you can just imagine the glamourous parties that were thrown here… if only these walls could talk!
Then there are the bathrooms, all incredibly luxurious, tiled floor to ceiling of course, each one (of three) in a different colour, the walls plastered with paintings and gorgeous objects.
Brady lived in Cuernavaca for 20 years. He never married or had children and has become a modern-day gay icon. He died at the age of only 58 and is buried in the garden next to his dogs. Before he died, he stipulated his house and his entire collection be opened to the public. Since his death, the Robert Brady Foundation has beautifully restored the house and maintained its contents exactly as he left them, as if he’s just stepped out and will return any moment.
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Trust a gay to brighten up the town. 👏🌈
La Casa de La Torre sounds fabulous! What a life he must have led there. Indeed, if only those walls could talk. But at least the museum paints a pretty colourful picture.
What an amazing home!