During my recent visit to the colonial city of Velladolid in the state of Yucatan, Mexico, I had the privilege of visiting John Venator at his home. Venator is a retired American executive who fell in love with Mexico few years ago. He visited the Yucatan area with his wife on vacation, and eventually made it home. In Velladolid, John and his wife, Dorianne purchased a home that was in ruins and renovated it for 10 years. They designed every feature of the house very carefully and then converted it into one of the largest private Mexican art collections in the world.
Casa de los Venados translating to House of the Deer, is an 18,000 square foot private home/ folk art museum located near the main square of Velladolid. An unassuming sign outside the main door doesn’t give away much to whats inside – over 3000 pieces of museum quality Mexican folk and contemporary art.
John shows me around the hallway, patio, bedrooms, kitchen, backyard and dining room, pointing out to several of his favorite pieces. Everywhere I look, there is a sculpture, painting, pottery or furniture that was either commissioned by the Venators or acquired from art shows, flea markets and competitions. There are no names or descriptions, but John himself remembers each artists, and goes on to tell several stories of how he brought them to his collection. The pieces are from all over Mexico and represent traditional Mexican elements such as wild animals, everyday people, skulls, devils, etc. There is even an entire guest suite dedicated to the famous legend, Frida Kahlo.
Below are some photos from Casa de los Venados… but truly, they don’t do justice to actually seeing the place in person.
While the Venators continue to live in this house museum, they offer daily tours at 10am in English and Spanish for a $5 suggested donation, through which they support local charities. A visit to Casa de los Venados is not to be missed! Watch video of the home or visit their website for more information.