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Mérida is a picturesque city in the Mexican state of Yucatán. Little over a century ago, it was one of the richest cities in the world, due to the export of henequen, a local agave plant used to make rope. Its past glory is still evident in dilapidated limestone mansions that are being increasingly refurbished into stylish properties by artists, architects and contemporary bohemians, driving a cultural revival of the city.
Two such proponents are the artist couple Milena Muzquiz and Jorge Pardo who have made the 800-square-foot property seen in this month’s NOWNESS episode of In Residence their home. Although modest in size in relation to local standards, the generous layout of the design features high ceilings, vivid bursts of color and vegetation that envelops the building.
Pardo, a Cuban-American whose work bridges art and functional design, originally envisioned the house as an exhibition space. For a show back in 2008, he covered the walls of a commercial gallery in London with photo-murals of his and Muzquiz’s house, describing it as “a building transformed into a sculpture that is also a place of residence.” Pardo had done a similar project in the past for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, for which he built and outfitted a house that was to become his home for several years.
Muzquiz, originally a celebrated Mexican singer in the pop duo Los Super Elegantes, successfully transitioned into contemporary art, using ceramics as her principal medium, while continuing to perform sporadically. Muzquiz’s intricate and imaginative ceramic vases incorporate local materials and traditional techniques, and her work will be shown at the solo booth of Travesia Cuatro in Frieze New York this week, where she will also perform with Los Super Elegantes, for one night only, on a stage designed by Pardo at the Hotel Americano.
While the couple’s home has provided the privacy that both need in order to concentrate on creating, all work is kept in their respective studios as they insist on stripping the house of any artistic importance. “There’s nothing about the art world around us here; there’s nothing to do with fashion; there’s nothing up to speed in the contemporary world,” says Pardo. “I don’t like the idea of living in an important house.”