In the Zona

Mexico City
04.29.12

Left: Dealer Jan Mot and artist David Lamelas. Right: Artist Gabriel Kuri and dealer Jose Kuri.


THERE’S A SMALL ALTAR off to one side of Mexico City’s Metropolitan Cathedral. Compared to the massive, baroque church organ across the aisle, or the statues of Mary with ashen skin, it’s unassuming and easy to miss. The altar is covered with a tangle of padlocks, an offering to San Ramón Nonato, protector of anyone imperiled by gossip and rumor. Visitors attach their own locks to the display, while praying that they’ll be delivered from the evil of wagging tongues. The week before last, despite all of Raymond Nonnatus’s powers, the art world conjured itself to the Centro Banamex a mere eight miles away. The occasion was Mexico City’s annual contemporary art fair, Zona Maco. Though, to be just, there was something relatively pure about the whole week, at least as far as art fairs go.

“I came in 2009 and realized you have to bring all your own tools. In 2009 I had to wait like six hours for a ladder,” said one exhibitor featured in the fair’s nuevos proyectos section, where galleries mounted small shows by emerging artists. He wasn’t the only one flying by the seat of his pants. Dealer Janice Guy grappled with the sunlight that poured indoors from a loading dock and blotted out her gallery’s poetic video by Patricia Esquivias, with its shots of a hand lighting matches in the darkness. And Galerie Thomas Schulte would have shown a video by Miguel Angel Rios, except the gallery had had all its equipment stolen the night before. Meanwhile, a scramble to remedy a shortage of chairs preceded Marc-Olivier Wahler and Lourdes Morales’s talk on programming as a medium.

Left: Architect Pepe Rojas, dealer Fernando Mesta, and Portikus curator Sophie von Olfers. Right: Dealer Pamela Echeverria.


Even so, most everyone agreed that Maco, after several years of growing pains, had become an echt art fair (even if one that inexplicably included a frozen yogurt stand amid its booths). But it was the various venues around town that offered the most eye-catching shows in eye-catching spaces. Two initiatives launched near Casa Luis Barragán in Tacubaya: There, crowds moved between an ecumenical exhibition of design objects at the new Archivo Diseño y Arquitectura (architect Fernando Romero’s former workshop) and Pedro Reyes’s playful show at Labor’s airy new gallery across the street. In San Miguel Chapultepec, Jan Mot featured David Lamelas and Robert Barry, among others (hung in his gallery’s maze of open-air spaces full of peeling paint and ivy), and Proyectos Monclova showed Tania Pérez Córdova in its sunny room above a small café.

Then there was Kurimanzutto Gallery, with its wood-beamed ceilings and garden of succulents, displaying the work of Gabriel Kuri (the brother of proprietor Jose). It rained the night Kuri’s show opened; attendees mingled in the covered courtyard out back. Per usual, the crowd included a mix of those esteemed for being everything at once, like Rosario Nadal (art consultant, professor, princess, and Valentino muse), and those esteemed for being everywhere at once, like artist Saâdane Afif. And then there were the random drunks—those of us who’d underestimated the strength of the Casa Dragones tequila and were beginning to pay the price. We stumbled on to OMR gallery, in a Spanish Colonial building in the Roma neighborhood, for two openings: a group show and a high-tech solo exhibition by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer.

Traffic going south the next day was rough, as an intimate group led by Artists Space director Stefan Kalmár headed to the Anahuacalli Museum, the Mesoamerican pyramid built by Diego Rivera to store his collection of nearly 59,000 Mexican artifacts. Until July 8, the museum is also home to new work by artist Sarah Lucas, who that morning was busy installing her now-trademark “Nuds”—polyester stockings stuffed with cotton and twisted into limblike forms. Her UK dealer, Sadie Coles, looked on. “It’s a tough space. I was a bit daunted at first,” said Lucas. She spoke so understatedly that everyone had to laugh—because, really, how does an artist respond to a temple built from black volcanic stone that has windowpanes made of translucent pieces of agate and walls embellished with mosaics depicting Aztec gods? Lucas rose to the occasion. She placed her Nuds on pedestals made of cinder blocks bought from Oaxacan craftsmen, connecting her work to Rivera’s investment in Mexican artisanship. And her Trotsky portrait—a line drawing whose lines comprised cigarettes glued end to end—appeared right under the watchful gazes of the Lenin and Mao depicted by Rivera in his sketches for the 1952 mural Nightmare of War, Dream of Peace.

Left: Artist Sarah Lucas with Artists Space director Stefan Kalmár. Right: Dealer Sadie Coles.


We went the next day from Lenin and Mao to the heart of industry: the Jumex factory, on the city’s outskirts, where juice tycoon Eugenio López exhibits art from his collection. The Drawing Center’s Claire Gilman and the New Museum’s Richard Flood were among those taking in the exhibition on view, “Poule!,” curated by Michel Blancsube. Exhibited artists ranged from Urs Fischer to Iñaki Bonillas. The juice bottles that caterers handed out along with tapas had a bit of art as well: Carlos Amorales had been commissioned to create labels with odd hieroglyphs to replace the letters JUMEX.

Here’s a tip I learned in grade school: If you’re ever lost in New York, go to that giant clock in the middle of Grand Central and things will be OK. Similarly, if you’re ever separated from your herd at Zona Maco, head straight for the seafood restaurant Contramar. Everyone will be there. Everyone was there, for lunch, having returned from the trek to Jumex. It was 3 PM or so, and bright and breezy, the awning fluttering outside, the tables laden with tuna tostadas and limes. Everyone was partaking: Clarissa Dalrymple, Barbara Gladstone. The Guggenheim’s Ari Wiseman. House of Gaga’s Fernando Mesta. Dealer Spencer Brownstone, holding down fort outside. And on and on.

But we hadn’t even made it yet to the day’s headline event: a party in the massive main hall of the Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico. Upstairs, Minerva Cuevas had mounted a solo show that included a reprise of her stacked cans of Del Monte tomatoes relabeled to read PURE MURDER (a critique of a CIA-led coup in Guatemala that ended the nation’s attempt to nationalize the United Fruit Company). Meanwhile, on the main floor, agoraphiles and lots of people in their twenties stood shoulder to shoulder, drinking in the teal and purple strobe lights. Seeing all this, I couldn’t help but think of the John Giorno text piece that hung in the home of collectors Patricia Martin and Julio Madrazo, who had hosted a dinner earlier on for a handful of lucky guests. WE GAVE A PARTY FOR THE GODS AND THE GODS ALL CAME, read Giorno’s piece. He must have been referring to a different party from a different time. Everyone I came across last week, at least, seemed to be dripping with mezcal, stuffed with food, and very much mortal.

Left: Dealer Euridice Arratia and artist Pablo Rasgado. Right: Artist Yoshua Okón.


Left: Party at the Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico. (Photo: Gary Metzner) Right: Artist Saâdane Afif.


Left: Proyectos Monclova's Teofilo Cohen, David Zabulsi, and Jose Garcia. Right: Dealer Peter Kilchmann.


Left: David Lamelas, Jan Mot, and architect Fernando Romero. Right: Zona Maco director Zelika Garcia.


Left: Dealer Daniel Roesler. Right: Dealer Janice Guy with New Museum director of special projects Richard Flood.


Left: Dealer Henrique Faria. Right: Dealer Alex Logsdail.


Left: Artist Patricia Fernandez and dealer Shirley Morales. Right: Artists Gabriel Kuri and Pedro Reyes.


Left: Dealer Sarah Gavlak (right). Right: Dealer Paul Judelson.


Dawn Chan