Mexican event cleans up its act

But leading galleries drop out this year

MEXICO CITY. Wounded by negative publicity after mounting last year’s event in a dust-filled garage, the organisers of the fifth edition of Maco, Mexico’s top contemporary art fair, placed this year’s edition (23-27 April) in the pristine Centro Banamex convention hall. Large, well-lit stands were spread out in the high-ceilinged space which Maco founder Zélika García says will house the event for the next five years. Dealers welcomed the improvement, but the 2007 venue debacle coupled with the overbooked fair calendar led major foreign dealers to drop out, including Zwirner, Arndt and Partner, Yvon Lambert and Spencer Brownstone.

Maco takes place the month after the Armory Show in New York, and this year also came two weeks after Circa in San Juan, one week after Art Cologne and Art Brussels, and at the same time as fairs in São Paulo, Vienna and Chicago. Add in uncertainty about the economy, and it was little wonder that attendance seemed down this year (the fair did not provide figures)

and sales were modest, mainly to Mexican collectors. Americans and Europeans were thin on the ground.

Of the 86 galleries, 20 were from Mexico, 19 from the US and only six from other Latin American countries. There were 38 galleries from Europe and Zenshi from Japan, but some critics were not overly impressed with the level of work, particularly from lesser known exhibitors. Foreign dealers also complained that local collectors limit purchases to native artists.

An exception was newcomer Albion of London which sold Vito Acconci’s Performance Test, 1969, to Mexican chain store magnate Agustín Coppel. Mr Coppel also bought a work by Catalan artist Ignasi Aballí from Elba Benítez (Madrid) and a work by Brígida Baltar from Daniel Roesler (São Paulo).

Eugenio López of the Jumex Foundation acquired a 2008 digital offset by Iñaki Bonillas from Mexico City’s Galería OMR, whose co-owner Patricia Riestra reported numerous sales. As we went to press, César Cervantes, head of the fast food chain Taco Inn, was negotiating works from galleries Kurimanzutto, Roesler and Austria’s Krobath Wimmer and Krinzinger. And Maco veteran Jacob Karpio of Costa Rica sold a Lluis Barba photo collage based on Millet’s The Gleaners for $40,000 to Mexican collector Edid Cheny.

Visiting collectors included Phoenix-based Bruce and Diane Halle and Jack Morinier (a patron of the MFA Houston’s Latin American programme). Ms Riestra, a member of the organising committee, voiced the widespread opinion that the fair must work harder to attract international visitors. She believes the key is to include more cutting edge high-quality galleries especially from Latin America. “We cannot think of competing with the big art fairs,” she says. “We should do a different event, one which collectors would want to come to because of its personality.”

Jason Edward Kaufman

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