Art, Architecture and Surveillance

  – Juan Cantu  

The Leonora Carrington Museum1 is located within the Centro de las Artes Centenario 2 (Centenary Arts Center) in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. It is the first space dedicated to the work of the British-born Mexican surrealist artist and holds a wide range of her work, reflecting her interdisciplinary approach to art.

The Arts Center is located in a former state prison, designed in the late 19th century, under Jeremy Bentham’s “panopticon” model, and built in the early 20th century by Mexican architect Carlos Suarez Fiallo. Despite not being completed, the prison was inaugurated in 1890 and it continued its operations until the late 1990s, fulfilling over a century of its original purpose. Today the center has been completely transformed by architect Alejandro Sanchez Garcia 3 ; it holds academic programmes in pop art, visual arts, design, scenic arts such as music dance and theatre, emerging technologies and literature, along with the Leonora Carrington museum.

Even though the museum only occupies a minimal portion of the entire precinct, the tension between the artist’s fantastic creatures and the architecture can be perceived as much greater than its actual size. The art pieces occupy both the guard as well as the guarded position according to their size, therefore the synergy between the observed and the observant is unstable throughout the entire experience. This visual essay is an attempt to narrate a series of visual encounters that occured at this place – a place originally intended for surveillance, striving to revindicate its tainted past.

Ironically, this building fulfills so well its new use that one cannot avoid finding an analogy between both the prison and the museum. Here, the surrealism of Leonora Carrignton comes to life with an obscure tonality, putting into a new perspective the role of the three disciplines converging in this place; art, architecture and surveillance.

1 “Museo”, Accessed on October 2020,


2 “Centro de las Artes de San Luis Potosi, Centenario, Accessed on October, 2020,


3 “Centro de las Artes de San Luis Potosi, Accessed on October 2020,


Courtesy of Juan Cantu

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