When you were a kid, were you ever asked to describe your dream house? I remember hearing this question several times – and most children go on to describe a mansion with tennis courts and a swimming pool. For me, the dream house was (and to an extent still is) a fisherman’s cottage next to a harbour in a small (unspecified) village in Cornwall – pink, with a thatched roof and a white picket fence. Because they’re adorable, and I’d seen loads of them on my summer holidays.
But I didn’t ever hear anyone respond: “I’d like to convert a large town house in Mexico and fill it with the largest privately owned collection of Mexican folk art.” And yet I absolutely stumbled across this exact dream house in Valloldolid, Mexico that even 8-year-old me would have been excited by.
Which brings me smoothly onto my next point: I’m rarely ecstatically excited by art galleries. I’ll be honest: I can take them or leave them. It’s not the art that I find dull (normally) but the general environment. Just painting after painting – perhaps with the odd statue thrown in for good measure. Art “collections” in more interesting locations – and with a much more creative use of space – are far more exciting.
And so I found myself in Casa de los Venedos. (The house of the Venedos family). Situated in central Valladolid, this family home is open for tours at 10am every day of the week, no booking necessary. For the disorganised soul (me), this was perfect.
From the outside, it looked like a regular town house. Inside was quite different: I’m not exaggerating when I say that there was Mexican art literally everywhere – in every single corner, wall and on every surface – to the point that the house itself might as well be considered a piece of Mexican art in its own right. Skeletons, animals, figurines, canvases and paintings. SO MANY COLOURS. And so many places to look. This was my kind of art hub.
Our guide took us on a tour for around an hour, explaining the finer details of a selection of the art work. I imagine an explanation of every piece would have required a week’s stay – at least.
Apart from being stacked full of interesting pieces, the house itself was gorgeous. Large bedrooms, marble floors, swimming pools all centred around a long wooden dining table. Pretty dreamy.
At the end of the tour, we were invited to share some Rosca (fruity bread) with the owners, since it was King’s Day. At this point, we learned more about their story: after building successful careers in the US, the couple set about renovating the house in Valladolid and building the collection. As their website states: “In the long run, the art collection, the house and an endowment will go to a private foundation, which is charged with continuing to operate the home as a private house museum open to the public, as well as hosting various musical events and other public events.”
As we left, we were asked to make a small donation which would go towards a local charity. I was glad to. In this short hour and a half I had not only discovered an entirely new breed of dream house but had found an art collection that was creatively put together as well as enormous, colourful and interesting. I recommended it to almost every other traveller that I met going forward:
“I’m not normally into this kind of thing…honest…you’ll love it…”