Since he retired from hosting the Larry King Show — on which Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim was one of his final guests — the suspender-sporting TV personality has perhaps been looking for something to do. And last night provided at least one diversion for King, when he emceed a bash to inaugurate Slim's new Soumaya Museum in Mexico City. Fifteen hundred guests including Mexican president Felipe Calderón and author Gabriel García Márquez sipped Champagne and toured the flashy building, which will open to the general public later this month.
Slim — whose wealth was estimated at $53.5 billion by Forbes last year, making him the world's richest man — named the museum after his late wife, and its six rooms will exhibit a rotating selection of pieces from his collection of 60,000 works, according to Reuters. Slim's art holdings are eclectic, including Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Rufino Tamayo, as well as European masters such as El Greco, Leonardo da Vinci, Monet, and Cézanne. He also holds Rodin in particularly high esteem, and has one of the largest collections of the sculptor's work outside France.
The anvil-shaped museum in one of Mexico City's ritziest residential areas was designed by Slim's son-in-law, Fernando Romero, who studied under Rem Koolhaas, Bloomberg reports. The building is covered with thousands of hexagonal aluminum panels that reflect sunlight. (In fact, they resemble a shiny over-sized version of the hexagonal tiles that are ubiquitous in pre-war bathrooms in New York).
Thanks to underwriting by the Carlos Slim Foundation, the $34-million-dollar museum will be free to visitors. "This museum is for the Mexicans who cannot travel outside Mexico, so that they have a place to see this art in their country," Slim said, according to Bloomberg. The billionaire stated that he helped to select the works from his collection that will be on display and also used his own handwriting for the art institution's logo design.
The museum is part of a 12-acre development that will include the corporate headquarters for companies run by Slim. Plans also call for apartment buildings, shops, and an underground theater to be built. The son of a Lebanese-born merchant, Slim has built a media, banking, and retail empire and controls Mexico's phone company as well as its largest cell-phone carrier.