5 Questions for Gallerist Sofía Sáenz de Santa María on Navigating Both the Mexico City and Madrid Art Scenes

The director of Mexico City's Proyecto H has plans to open a darkroom residency in the city later this year.

Courtesy of Sofía Sáenz de Santa María.

Spanish-born art dealer Sofía Sáenz de Santa María splits her time working between Madrid and Mexico City. Raised in Madrid and now the director of art space Mexico City’s Proyecto H, Sáenz de Santa knows that though these two cities share a language and a long tangled history, the art scenes and collectors couldn’t be more different. 

Currently, Sáenz de Santa María is organizing projects in both cities and working to open a photography darkroom residency located in a 1940s Mexico City apartment.

We recently caught up with the jet-setting dealer about what drew her to the arts in the first place and lessons she’s learned navigating the two cultural scenes.

Courtesy of Sofía Sáenz de Santa María.

Courtesy of Sofía Sáenz de Santa María.

Why did you start working in the art business?
I was terrible at school academically, but in the art world, I discovered that I had other qualities, ones that are not necessarily the ones that help you succeed at school but which were useful in the creative sphere. I became interested in the art market as a teenager. I found it intriguing as well as peculiar. This curiosity led me to get passes to attend the art fair, ARCO Madrid. I began collecting printed materials from each edition of the fair, and visited the fair every year so I could compare it through time. 

What is your advice for young collectors in Spain and Mexico?
I would advise you to keep an open mind and visit different spaces: galleries, independent venues, government-sponsored museums. We all need a panoramic view of what is happening in the art world. Avoid the all too common mistake of thinking you can acquire an artwork without professional advice. Keep up to date about the global art market through platforms like Artnet to make informed decisions.

Can you reveal any forthcoming exciting projects?
Currently, I maintain my relationships with the galleries Esto es Charco and 90_20 and we’ll be announcing collaborations soon. I am launching the project Departamento de Impresión. This will be at an apartment in Mexico City’s Parque España, on the second floor of a building from the 1940s with great vintage windows. This apartment is outfitted with a studio suited for the creation of analog photographic prints. We’ll be launching a residency in which you can live and print black-and-white and analog color prints. 

Courtesy of Sofía Sáenz de Santa María.

The Mexico City location where Departamento de Impresión residency will be held. Courtesy of Sofía Sáenz de Santa María.

If you could have dinner with any three artists, living or dead, who would they be?
I’d like to have been with Gordon Matta-Clark with Lee Lozano and Isidoro Valcárcel Medina in New York City. 

If you could own any artwork, which one would you want?
Strangely, I’ve never had the desire to own a collection. Having the opportunity of viewing artworks in museums, art fairs, or galleries is pleasure enough for me. However, I often have flashbacks of Vista del jardín de la Villa Medici en Roma on view in Museo del Prado. I would love to own that painting. 

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