Zona Maco: a beacon of art in Latin America

On 18 February 2020, by Pierre Naquin et Hugues Cayrade

The 14th edition of the Mexican fair took place from 5 to 9 February in the country's capital. Despite a tough economic context, high-quality exhibitors and visitors reported present. There was a little breakage, too…

Lautario Bianchi (b. 1975), Berghain y el fin de la opacidad como utopia, 2019.

This year Zona Maco brought together four shows in one: in addition to modern and contemporary art, promoted by some 120 local and international galleries, the photography, design and antiques sectors were represented – as well as twenty-six countries – by exhibitors from the Americas, Europe and Asia. "A combination that upped the visitor numbers," said local gallery owner Enrique Guerrero, despite strained relations with their US neighbour and an unenviable situation at home, with sharply rising fuel prices and the peso at rock-bottom in mid-January. An initial assessment revealed that organisers and exhibitors were satisfied with the attendance and sales achieved during the fair. The event was also marked by the announcement of the cancellation of Art Basel Hong Kong (scheduled from 19 to 21 March) due to the coronavirus and, in a lighter vein, by the blunder of a Mexican art critic who, on Saturday, at the stand of the OMR gallery (Mexico), unintentionally shattered a glass sculpture by Gabriel Rico worth $19,000 when she placed a can of Coca-Cola near it. Some people saw it as symbolic, others as a sign of good luck...

"Hispanic Basel Art..."
"For me, Zona Maco is a bit like a Hispanic Art Basel," said Mauricio Aguirre, of the Peruvian and Ecuadorian platform NASA(L), who spoke of a "five-star audience"; while Claes Nordenhake of the eponymous Berlin gallery noted a growing interest among Mexican collectors. "Mexico's new museums have grasped contemporary art in a way that makes the country a truly interesting market. We should remember that its territory is as large as Japan, and Mexico City's population is as large as Tokyo's." Julien Cuisset of Le Laboratoire, based in the Condesa district, went further in his analysis: "I was happy with the participation of the local public, well-established and new collectors, architects, institutions and curators, but less so with the involvement of museum administrators and international collectors, who were almost systematically channelled to the three largest Mexican galleries. This means that the market is fragmented, collections are becoming standardised, and the rich variety of the Mexican ecosystem is lost along the way."

Good business and promising sales prospects
For its first participation, Chicago's Richard Gray Gallery was all the happier as it received the best stand award. "Our artists were very well received," said the gallery's manager, Valerie Carberry. Rachael Palacios, from Heather Gaudio Fine Art in New Canaan, Connecticut, also reported "a six-figure result," while María Rodríguez, from Yusto/Giner (Malaga), said that her turnover at Zona Maco is "higher than at other fairs." "We presented a solo show by Santiago Parra and all the works were sold to American and Mexican collectors," said London dealer Jean-David Malat. The Lisson Gallery (London and New York) was also happy; it exhibited pieces by Spencer Finch, Ryan Gander, Hugh Hayden, Jason Martin, Laure Prouvost and Pedro Reyes, and at the same time presented Richard Long's new sculptures at the Cuadra San Cristóbal, designed by the colourist architect Luis Barragán. It was looking at a million dollars by the end of the week. "The experimental multimedia installation by sculptor Juan Betancurth and sound artist Daniel Neumann was greeted very positively by the general public and curators," said New York gallery owner Iliya Fridman, who came to Zona Maco with a promotional rather than commercial approach. Satisfied with the contacts made this year with important collectors from Guadalajara, Timothy Hawkinson, from New York's Marc Straus gallery, said: "Zona Maco is a fair that has always led to major sales after the event." This was confirmed by the Italian Giorgia Lucchi Boccanera: "If all the promises are converted into transactions, I would say that sales have been very good." Contemporary Hispanic art will be back in the spotlight in Madrid at the end of the month with ARCO.

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