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What Mexico’s Ambassador Says about Art and Collecting

Federico Salas made his first visit to indonesia in 1992, when Indonesia was hosting the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement. A junior diplomat, Salas was travelling between Bali and Jakarta to arrange logistics. Along the way, he purchased several Balinese masks, which have made the journey with him from Indonesia to the Czech Republic, Israel, Mexico and New York City before, finally returning home, where they hang on the wall of Salas’ residence in Jakarta. “The good or bad part is that I have so many things,” Salas says. “I will have to have a bazaar when I leave.” Here Indonesia Design’s Christian Razukas asks the ambassador about Mexican design and explores some of the pieces in his collection.

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Difference between Mexican and Indonesian homes?

“Colours on the wall–pinks or yellows or salmons. In Mexico, even the outside of houses are painted. When flying in to Mexico city, you come in from the north and it looks like a rainbow of colours. The cars are bright green or orange–and so are the houses. There’s not a tendency for monochrome.”

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Must-know architects?

Salas pays homage to interior designer Luis Ramiro Barragán, born in Guadalajara. While Barragán’s play with colour is instantly recognizable, the architect is famous for designs that remain timeless, Salas adds. “He is most known for his distinctive modern lines. Mexico is a hot country, but most of the places he has built are fresh and cool. You enter the house and feel the cool and freshness. Barragán has captured that spirit. Like the Camino Real Hotel in Mexico city, built for the Olympics in 1968. You can walk into it and it still has that finished-two-months-ago feel.”

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Edifice complex?

As a building to visit, Salas cites architects such as Pedro Ramirez Vasquez’s 1960s-era National Museum of Anthropology in Chapultepec Park in Mexico city. The building captures the essence of pre-Hispanic culture–fitting, Salas says, as it is the repository for the treasures of the Aztecs and the Mayans.

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