Mexico City galleries come together for homegrown Zonamaco Art Week

Despite postponing the traditional art fair, organisers found a way to hold shows and create a sense of occasion

Gabriel Rico's works, Can you smell maths? (Watermelon Oryx, 2021) and Can you smell maths? (Pink deer, 2021) at OMR Courtesy of the artist and OMR, Mexico City. Photo: Diego Argüelles © 2020

Gabriel Rico's works, Can you smell maths? (Watermelon Oryx, 2021) and Can you smell maths? (Pink deer, 2021) at OMR Courtesy of the artist and OMR, Mexico City. Photo: Diego Argüelles © 2020

Unprecedented situations call for creative solutions. So, despite the decision to postpone this year’s edition of Zonamaco until February 2022, the Latin American art fair’s organisers devised a way to hold on to the nearly 20-year Zonamaco tradition without actually putting on the fair—at least, not in a traditional sense.

Instead, from today until 2 May, Mexico City will host Zonamaco Art Week, a sprawling affair in galleries across the city that aims to revitalise its art scene, “encourage a spirit of collaboration and strengthen the connections with collectors, professionals and the general public.”

Zélika García, the founder of Zonamaco, tells The Art Newspaper there was a desire to hold an event "that vindicates the central role of galleries and intensifies dialogues with institutions and other projects, generating a flowing conversation with the local context and its public space."

According to García, collaboration and partnership are constant themes throughout the week’s programming, with galleries based in Mexico City hosting those from other Mexican states, for example the pairing of Nordenhacke CDMX, Curro from Guadalajara and Fifi Projects from Monterrey or partnerships between galleries from the same city, such as Proyectos Monclova and Machete, or Agustina Ferreyra, Llano, YOPE and Salon Silicon in Kurimanzutto. Projects will be presented in different galleries across the city in five different neighborhoods or “circuits”: Condesa, Juárez, Polanco, Roma and San Miguel Chapultepec.

“This fair is really the event of the year for contemporary art,” says Jacob Flood, director of content and communication at OMR, one of the Mexico City-based galleries participating in the art week. “While this year there is no actual physical fair the idea is still alive, the Zonamaco brand is alive, and the collectors are interested. The only thing different is the form. Rather than doing online viewing rooms, which can be boring and lose that engagement and interaction with collectors that’s so important, why not do it in a new way?”

Zonamaco director Zélika Garcia Photo: Cara Leonard

OMR is embracing the spirit of collaboration: not only will it be hosting an exhibition of indigenous artists by Galería Muy from Chiapas, Mexico, it will also be inaugurating a new project space with an exhibition of seven young painters working and living in Mexico City.

Flood says the coronavirus-related restrictions, including galleries being open for appointment-only and timed visits, has changed the dynamic between the gallery and its visitors, but not in the way you might expect. “Rather than doing one opening night for our most recent exhibition by Gabriel Rico which will be on view during art week we held smaller openings by appointment or invitation. The mentality of the visitors was very different. Because they know their appointment lasts only 30 minutes, people were more conscientious and aware of their time in the space, knowing that someone else might not be able to enter because they were there. They were more present and engaged, and there were never more than 20 people in the space at one time which allowed for much more one-on-one time between visitors and the gallerists than at a normal opening.”

Flood adds: “As a gallerist, when we are going into a physical art fair, we can make all the decisions that we want around how to display work. We don’t have that control in an online viewing room. We’ll see how this new form works out. There’s probably not going to be the same kind of traffic there would be at the convention centre, where you have a constant flow of collectors walking through, but there’s no question this will be a more interesting way to connect than an online viewing room.”