Zona Maco in Mexico City is a force to reckon with—a colossal art fair packing a heavy punch of creative energy without all of the uppity art-world nonsense that most fairs tend to exhibit (although there’s still a bit of that here and there).
The 16th edition of Latin America’s largest international art fair—and my first—quickly resembles an elegant cross between Frieze, Basel, and Printed Matter’s Artbook Fair (sans the chaos). That is to say it is both young and old, hip and classy, and all within the purview of meeting energetic and inspired gallerists and artists (new and established) in a setting that encourages conversations, the sharing of ideas, new discoveries, and of course the enjoyment of art. The whole thing seems effortless, inviting, calm, and pristine—it’s unlike any other fair I’ve been to.
In a time where the whole world seems to be culturally and politically divided, it’s almost ironic that an art fair such as this seems to be a catalyst for bringing people of diverse economic and social backgrounds together in artistic harmony. Maybe I’m being too optimistic, but perhaps the proof is in the art itself. From Basquiat’s Untitled (Boxer), 1983—going for a whopping $15 million at Michael Fuchs’s booth—to Eric Thornton’s A Perspective on Prototypes, a photo-essay book that chronicles the artist’s attempt to photograph prototypes of Trump’s wall in Tijuana, Mexico (retailing at a modest $20 at Homie House Press), the work in this year’s fair couldn’t be more varied and exciting.
Here’s a humble sample of some the best works on view at Zona Maco.
Suffocate Your Latest Emotions With a Set of Miniature 14 Karat Gold Dildos, Available For a Limited Time For 69 Easy Installments of 14.99 (2019)
If you’re looking for something irresistibly fun and beautifully executed, Morgan Blair’s rich and colorful tableaux at The Hole are not to miss. The young Brooklyn-based artist gravitates between pure abstractions and, sometimes, what looks to be loosely figurative vignettes of amorphous characters. Her paintings, priced at $12,000 each, are made from airbrush acrylic, sand, and lots of masking tape. Each work is layered with tight gradients of vibrant color and swatches of rough sandy texture protruding out of the picture plane. The inherent wackiness in her work is reminiscent of Rachel Harrison’s sculptures, while her application of paint harkens steadfastly to hard-edge abstractionists.
Carla’s World (2018)
Irrefutably one of the main highlights of the fair is Jaume Plensa’s Carla’s World at Galerie Lelong, a more than six-foot-tall sculpture that amazes from every single vantage point. The Barcelonan artist, widely known for his public sculptures littered across the world—most notably Chicago’s Crown Fountain—created an almost reverse trompe d’oeil effect by stretching or elongating the head of the bust. The result is absolutely mind-bending as the sculpture looks, at times, almost holographic—somehow a digital projection of a skewed image. The viewer is constantly questioning the physicality of the piece as it wraps around the work looking for clues, only to be continually confounded by its thick marble material.
Fruition of black (2015)
The artist duo, made up of Kenyan artist Ingrid Mwangi and German artist Robert Hutter, work together as a single entity: the artist Mwangi Hutter. Working in a diverse array of media, including video, painting, sculpture, performance, and installation, the couple often involve they own biographies and bodies into their work. For Zona Maco, Seattle’s Mariane Ibrahim selected a series of paintings (priced at $8,000 each) showcasing both Mwangi and Hutter nude and often in embrace. The work is seductive and imposing, focusing on the interrelationship of their black-and-white bodies in space as they slowly morph into one singular being.
Parking Lotus (2001)
Mexican artist and provocateur Yoshua Okón is best known for his video and photography installations that deal conceptually with race, class, and post-colonial theory. In his contribution to Zona Maco, Mexico City’s Proyectosmonclova presents Parking Lotus, a three-channel video that sees three security guards in and around Los Angeles sitting in lotus pose, deep in meditation as they levitate off screen. One of the few video pieces in the fair, the work is humorous and playful—and also somewhat opaque, until, that is, you read Okón’s Los Angeles Security Guard Meditation Movement (LASGMM) manifesto, which isn’t included at the fair, but is part of the work. In it, the artist describes the poor conditions, low hourly wages, and physical strain that security guards face on a daily basis, and calls for healthier work conditions.
The celebrated Spanish artist Manolo Valdés is quite popular in Mexico and is one of the more standout artists in this year’s fair, with large-scale works at the booths of both Gallery Freites and Opera Gallery. But at Galeria Hispanica’s booth, on top of some pretty epic recent Mel Bochner paintings, you’ll find a more modest painting by Valdés, one that might go under you radar if you don’t pay close attention. Measuring at about 37-by-28 inches, the work, priced at $170,000, is a beautiful example of the artist’s overall oeuvre, and one that is refreshingly unassuming.
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