Gone are the days when art tourism to Mexico means just a visit to Frida Kahlo’s Blue House. Sure, it can still be a priority, but Mexico’s contemporary art scene should not be overlooked. On a slow but steady rise over the years, Mexican galleries and artists have been gaining the attentive eye of independent curators, arts writers, and passionate international collectors. With art non-profits like SOMA (which offers artist residencies, puts up exhibitions, and is a source of education), and publishing houses such as Alias, run by artist Damian Ortega to translate texts essential to the study of contemporary art into Spanish, along with an increasing number of contemporary art museums and initiatives, people should be looking at the art scene in Mexico more. For a country gripped with political, social, and cultural clashes and changes, it is no surprise that the arts are flourishing. So, with Mexico City’s contemporary art fair season kicking off today with Zona Maco and the new but promising Material Art Fair (starting tomorrow), here we celebrate our favourite galleries from Mexico, galleries that have been, and still are, invigorating the scene there, with shows that are both internationally and locally viable.
CURRO Y PONCHO
In Guadalajara, Mexico, a big, but less expansive city than Mexico City, is an art scene to rival the one in the nation’s capital – in no small part due to Curro y Poncho, which opened in 2008. Not only are they known for innovative and interesting shows, but they also show a hearty selection of Mexican installation artists like Alejandro Almanza Pereda (who will show at Zona Maco’s Sur section), Gabriel Rico, and Thomas Jeppe, an Australian installation artist (who they are showing at this years Zona Maco).
HOUSE OF GAGA
A newer gallery, but a force in ultra coolness, House of Gaga might be young but it’s become quickly established in Mexico City, and the art world at large. With represented artists including Sam Pulitzer, (an artist and writer based out of New York), and Jose Rojas, (an installation artist born and based in Mexico City), Gaga has international intentions and appeal.
One of Mexico City’s best inveterate galleries, Kurimanzutto is run by a husband and wife team who have been showing work in the city since 1999, and opened their current space in 2008. They show the country’s best contemporary artists, as well as several all-star international artists. Kurimanzutto represents Gabriel Orozco, one of the worlds most important contemporary artists, and certainly the most famous and followed contemporary artist from Mexico, as well as important non-natives like collaborative artists Allora & Calzadilla and Sarah Lucas.
Since opening in 2012, Proyecto Paralelo have shown works by Joan Jonas, Richard Serra, and John Baldessari. Big names, yes, and surely an indication of the art world’s growing interest in the city, and the city’s growing interest in the art world. But, the gallery’s specialty is largely in mid-career and emerging contemporary Latin American artists. At Zona Maco this year they will present artist Alberto Baraya, a Colombian artist whose work is and has been an in depth study of post-colonialism vis a vis botanical and scientific reclamation, among others.
Proyecto Monclova is the kind of gallery that is, and without doubt will continue to be, on the list of must-see galleries in Mexico City. Opened in 2011, they have shown work by such a vast array of artists from different places and stages in career, but artists that always have a sort of performative and art historical weight. Some of their represented artists include Marie Lund, Simon Fujiwara (an artist on a swift rise to artworld fame), and fascinating Mexican artists Mario Garcia Torres and Eduardo Terrazas. Proyecto Monclova’s distinct eye for the best and most compelling, both international and national, are essential to their place in Mexico City’s art community, and it’s rise to importance.
Labor opened in 2011, representing artists from all over the world, predominantly from the America’s and France. Labor is the perfect name for this gallery, as many of the artists represented deal with work, or perhaps more correctly, working class ideas and ideals. Be it Jill Magid, Hector Zamora, or Santiago Sierra (who will be showing at Zona Maco and whose work ranges in media from photography to performance and is about survival, labor, and capitalism and the brutality inherent in all of that), Labor shows many artists that subvert, in some way, class systems or strict structures, in any sense. It is because of this that Labor may be the gallery most tuned into it’s home city’s atmosphere and current cultural climate.
Galeria OMR is one of the oldest and most established galleries in Mexico City. Since 1983 they have been known for their avant-garde exhibitions, and are known for showing museum quality shows and artists. They’ve put up solos of James Turrell, and represents promising emerging Mexican artists like Jose Davila, Pia Camil and Julieta Aranda who will be shown as part of their presentation at Zona Maco.
Another gallery that represents Jose Davila is Travesia Cuatro, and like Curro y Poncho, located in the smaller but happening city of Guadalajara. Their first space opened in Madrid in 2003, and ten years later they opened their second space in Mexico. A sort of exodus, or rather, a pilgrimage has been happening - art enthusiasts, dealers, artists, curators have not only been visiting but have been settling in Mexico, ready and excited to be there just at the moments before, and during, Mexico’s rise to art world power. Travesia Cuatro is one of these pilgrims, and certainly one of the good ones. With artists including Davila, Jis, Mateo Lopez, Milena Muzquiz, and Sarah Crowner, this gallery brings in a sort of breath of fresh air to the scene - a more light-hearted take on the contemporary art scene both in Mexico and abroad.
Another product of the pilgrimage is Yautepec, which was founded in 2008 by Daniela Elbahara and Brett W Schultz; in 2014 they also founded the Material Art Fair, Zona Maco’s edgier young cousin, which is now in its 2nd Edition. The fair is exhibiting galleries from the United States, but not at all your typical selection - showing, yet again, the inclusivity of the local scene. Some of their artists to watch include Ryan Perez, Deborah Delmar Corp., and Txema Novelo.
The newest addition to Mexico City’s scene is another product of the pilgrimage, as we’ll call it, Lulu is an project space run by artist Martin Soto Clement and independant curator Chris Sharp. Their inaugural show was a solo by Detroit native Michael E. Smith: a promising way to begin. Next up they are showing at the Material Art Fair, and their second show, titled Lulennial: A Slight Gestuary opens 7 February and runs through mid-May. The show includes such names as Yoko Ono, Francis Alÿs, Darren Bader, Gabriel Orozco, and B. Wurtz. If this is a sign of things to come for Mexico’s art scene, then things are looking up.
All galleries listed will be showing at either Zona Maco or Material Art Fair