Mexico's contemporary art fair Zonamaco hits its stride

Organisers aim to ecourage new collectors in Mexico and let the fair grow with the local art market

Zonamaco, in its seventh edition, appears to have hit its stride. About 31,000 visitors came to see 96 galleries from 20 countries at the colossal Centro Banamex in the Colonia Lomas de Sotelo on the far northwestern edge of Mexico City, from 14-18 April.

While this year’s fair was slightly larger than in previous years—five more project spaces and five more galleries—getting bigger won’t be the trend. “The purpose is not to grow in size,” said Zelika Garcia, the director of Zonamaco. “What is important for Mexico is to encourage new collectors. This fair should grow with the Mexican market,” she said. To this end, she said, the show will continue to skew towards emerging artists, although there will also be a small, but solid blue-chip presence. “What is interesting for a collector is to see new things, to discover new artists,” she added.

To that end, Zona Maco Sur, curated by Adriano Pedrosa for the second year, featured 20 artists in solo projects, much like the format pioneered by Volta. Argentine artist Máximo González (the winner of this year’s Tequila Centenario emerging artist award) was among the Sur artists along with Brazilian artist Fernanda Gomes and the Mexican collective Tercerunquinto. Nuevas Propuestas (New Proposals,) introduced 26 younger galleries.

Patricia Ortiz Monasterio, owner of Galería OMR and one of the selection committee members said this year there were 150 dealer applications.

“We are now at the point where we can choose,” said Monasterio. While Mexico is a small art fair (Art Basel, for instance, had 1,200 applicants last year and accepted 250), it is comfortably carving its niche as the art fair of Latin America. “It’s close to everybody,” she said. “The important thing to is to make people feel comfortable.”

There was also a playful irreverence in evidence throughout the exhibition hall. Dozens of people posed for photographs by Teresa Serrano’s nearly waist high “Fuck You” melting ice sculpture on the corner of EDS Galeria’s booth. Former Pollock-Krasner Foundation winner Ale de la Puente’s installation ($12,000) of a white broom amid thousands of centavos on the floor, a piece that deals with value and repetition, attracted similar photographic attention at Mexico City’s KBK booth.

Fernando Cordero, director of La Caja Negra from Madrid, who has exhibiting at MACO since its inception believes it will be “the next big fair.” One of his booth walls faced the entrance and on it hung Anish Kapoor’s Shadow ($35,000) —an installation of 12 etchings.

Seen roaming the vast aisles were Mexico City collectors Agustín Coppel, César Cervantes, Boris Hirmas and Eugenio Lopez, of the Fundación/Colección Jumex (who hosted a festive opening on Wednesday night). Guadalajara-based Patrick Charpenel was also spotted along with Jeffrey Soros, Brussels collector Galila Barzilai Hollander and Art Basel co-directors Marc Spiegler and Annette Schonholzer.

Camilo Alvarez of Samson Projects, Boston returned even though, he said, he didn’t sell a thing last year (blame it on the swine flu scare). “I love this fair and I love this city,” said Alvarez. “Mexico has a hugely populist aspect and a hugely snobby aspect. When a city is that polarized it creates this transgressive environment that is highly appreciative of art,” he said. And he found the people in Mexico to be even more upfront than even New Yorkers. “They’ll tell you if they like it, they’ll tell you if they don’t,” he said.

Colección Jumex purchased a work by Gabriel de la Mora, as well as two sculptures by Miguel Angel Madrigal from Mexico City’s Galería Enrique Guerrero. Madrigal’s pair of carved wood lions, painted a glossy white, were staring into fishbowls containing live fish—also a big hit with camera-toters and the stroller set.

A trustee from MoCA, Los Angeles purchased a piece by Máximo González. González won the Tequila Centenario emerging artist award, a $10,000 acquisition prize that he shared with Galería Valle Ortí of Valencia, Spain. He was also represented by Galería Trevesía Cuatro of Madrid in the solo projects space. The winner, as well as the finalists, also took home a three-litre bottle of tequila.

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