Days of
the Dead

30 October –
2 November 2015

A free festival of art, performance, storytelling and talks to celebrate the Mexican tradition.

Supported by BP BP logo

Supported by BP BP logo

Mexican Embassy logo


In association with the Government of Mexico as part of 2015: Year of Mexico in the UK.


In Mexico, Days of the Dead is an annual festival where families gather to remember the dead. Its origins can be traced back at least 3,000 years among Mexico’s pre-Hispanic indigenous cultures.

Contemporary festivals reflect a blend of native traditions and Catholic beliefs. These include building private altars, honouring the dead using sugar skulls, marigolds and the favourite foods and beverages of the deceased, and visiting graves with these as gifts.

The British Museum’s free festival took place over four days and included a Friday evening event, a weekend of family activities and a study day on Monday. Throughout the festival the Museum was decorated with art installations by Mexican artists.

Mexican Day of the Dead

Installations and displays

Artist intervention and altar by Mexican artist Betsabeé Romero

A contemporary art installation based on a Day of the Dead altar, featuring hot air balloon-style tissue paper skulls and metal skeletons suspended from the Great Court roof, banners on the Reading Room and ‘serpents’ of tissue paper marigolds on the stairs.

The Calavera Cabinet

AVM Curiosities present an exclusive sugar sculpture shrine embellished with crystallised roses, chocolate Mexican milagros and edible iconography, with chocolate skulls by Conjurer’s Kitchen and wallpaper by Anatomy Boutique. This deliciously macabre confection is a celebration of life, death and time.

Traditional Day of the Dead incense

The Main entrance will be lined with braziers of burning copal incense and decorated with cempasuchil (marigolds).

Day of the Dead grave altar by FONART

Come and see a traditional Day of the Dead altar in Room 24 by FONART, The Mexican National Fund for the Development of Arts and Crafts.

Mesoamerican tree participative altar

The altar in the south-east of the Great Court will be in the form of a tree. You can attach memories of and messages to deceased loved ones.

Santa Sangre by Demián Flores

Santa Sangre is a work by Mexican artist Demián Flores, which has recently been acquired by the Museum. See it in Room 24.

Join the celebration!


Whether you're in Mexico or the Museum, share your pictures and celebrations with us.