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Billionaire Slim opens art museum in Mexico City

Soumaya Museum
A man runs up the stairs of the Soumaya Museum in Mexico City, March 1, 2011. AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills

In Mexico City Tuesday night, Carlos Slim, the richest man in the world, opened the Soumaya Museum alongside an entourage as eclectic his art collection: TV legend Larry King, Colombian novelist and Nobel laureate Garcia Marquez, and Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

The museum, named in honor of Slim's late wife, Soumaya, is in the upscale Polanco neighborhood and will display 60,000 of the tycoon's art pieces. The building was designed by Mexican architect Fernando Romero, Slim's son-in-law. (See a picture.)

The aluminum-encased asymmetrical building houses several Rodin sculptures, works by El Greco, Rubens, Monet, Renoir and Degas as well as murals by Mexican muralists Rufino Tamayo and Diego Rivera. The museum will open to the public later this month, entrance is free of charge.

Slim originally made his fortune in telecommunications and is worth $53.5 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

Hundreds of Calderon's security detail -- known here as the Estado Mayor -- swarmed the vast block that makes up Plaza Carso (short for Carlos and Soumaya).

To everyone's surprise, King kicked off the event by taking off his blazer and showing his trademark suspenders. Slim was one of the last big interviews on Larry King Live before King's retirement last year.

"I love this country and I love this city," said King while standing at the podium in an apparent PR effort to counter the murder and mayhem headlines coming out of Mexico these days.

Calderon, who spoke after King and Slim, thanked King in English for his comments. But it was Slim who had the last word.

"I want fine art at the reach of Mexicans who can't travel abroad," he said.

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