Though some people assume that Cancun is full of nothing but overpriced souvenirs, there are plenty of great values to be found. Some of the best bargains in Cancun – for both entertainment and distinctive souvenirs – are provided by the vibrant local art community. Art is everywhere you look in Cancun. Wherever you travel in the Hotel Zone or downtown Cancun, you will spot artists selling their work on busy street corners or in outdoor markets. Meanwhile, the galleries of Cancun represent both the best work of the region and internationally-recognized artists. Regardless of your budget, you will be able to find the right piece to add to your collection in Cancun.
One of the most popular places to view the fruits of creative labor is Cancun’s folk art museum, known locally as Museo de Arte Popular Mexicano. Located on the second floor of El Embarcadero Marina in Cancun’s Hotel Zone, the folk art museum showcases everything from traditional Mexican masks and costumes to religious artifacts and handmade toys. With nearly 15,000 square feet of exhibition space, the museum is able to tell many stories about both the local culture and the history of the Mexican people. Besides all of the artistic objects on display, the onsite gift shop is also a great place to shop for locally made oddities. Furthermore, the folk art museum provides a fun and affordable nighttime activity, remaining open to the public until at least 9 pm each day.
Some of the best places to shop for art in Cancun are the large shopping centers located throughout the Hotel Zone. The best selection of both commercial art galleries and individual vendors is at the sprawling Plaza Kukulcan. Known primarily for its number of upscale clothing and jewelry stores, Plaza Kukulcan is also a bustling art marketplace. In the common areas of the shopping center, local artists are allowed to display their work and sell directly to the public every day. On any given day, you will be able to find artists selling everything from handmade jewelry and crafts to pottery and oil paintings.
Plaza Kukulcan is also the place to find the work of renowned local artist Sergio Bustamante. Represented in Cancun by the Xaman-Ek Galleries, Bustamante’s uniquely surrealistic work is collected worldwide. Though he trained as an architect in Mexico, Bustamante has spent years combining his Chinese and Indian influences with the Mexican art tradition. The result is a body of sculpture and ceramics exhibiting a distinctive sense of humor, spiritually guided realism and superior workmanship. With additional locations at Plaza Caracol and La Isla, the Xaman-Ek Galleries also sell all types of locally-made products including jewelry, painting and folk art sculpture.
As you tour the galleries and museums of Cancun, you can also expect to see work inspired by the ancient Mayan culture. As the city is located amongst scores of ancient ruins in the heart of the Mayan Riviera, the imagery of the ancient civilization has always found its way into local museums and galleries. For souvenir hunters and art collectors, some of the most sought after items in Cancun are the expert reproductions of Mayan artwork. One such artist working in this style is painter and Mayan scholar Miguel Castro. Known for his masterful reproductions of Mayan paintings, Castro also uses traditional tools and methods to create his pieces.
Before venturing out in search of galleries and local artwork, check the local guides available at your hotel or resort. Besides offering descriptions of individual galleries and providing directions, many publications detail the most current exhibitions. If you are hoping to find a specific type of artwork at one of the outdoor markets, ask your concierge for suggestions; they often know where the best artists sell their products.