Mexico City’s Zona Maco Fair Is ‘Back in Full Force,’ as Collectors Snap Up Venice Biennale Artists

Exhibitors have brought works at a variety of price points, and there are discoveries to be made.

Ana Segovia, You're smart enough to know that talking won't save you, 2022. Image courtesy of the artist and kurimanzutto, Mexico City / New York Photos by Gerardo Landa Rojano / Eduardo López (GLR studio)

Four years ago, the pandemic hit and the peso was decimated, beginning a period of intense instability in Mexico City. Digital nomads flooded into the city, resulting in astronomical rent hikes but also the minting of a new collector base.

The peso has since recovered—it is now at a seven-year high—and business at the 20th-anniversary edition of the Zona Maco art fair at the Centro Citibanamex in the capital city appears to be booming.

“It’s just been exceptionally busy,” said Eric Gleason, head of sales at New York’s Kasmin gallery. “It had really slowed down during the pandemic and also last year, when we were hoping the fair would come back in full force. Now it finally has.”

Kasmin sold a number of works during the VIP opening day, including a $300,000 Mark Ryden piece titled CDMX (2023). It’s a cheeky work in the style of votive paintings that are offered in thanks to the Virgin of Guadalupe—a popular form of folk art here in Mexico that often includes a couple of sentences describing the aid that the Virgin provided a supplicant. Ryden’s work, featuring a self-portrait of the artist with a palette in his hands and being blessed with a ray of inspiration from the Virgin, includes the following line in Spanish: “When I went to CDMX in March of 2023 I was greatly inspired by everything I saw. I made this piece of cultural appropriation that, for me, is an act of admiration and love.”

The image features a human face and is displayed indoors on a wall

Mark Ryden, CDMX, 2023 ©Mark Ryden. Courtesy of Kasmin, New York. Photography by Wendy Timana.

Kasmin also sold Julia Isídrez’s Lago 7 cabezas (2023), which was made in the style of ancient Mexican ceramics, for $9,000. Gleason credited the quick deal to the recent announcement that Isidrez will be included in the Venice Biennale’s massive main show this year, which includes 331 participants, many from the Global South.

The image is of a brown clay bowl with 7 animal heads

Julia Isídrez, Lago 7 cabezas, 2023. Courtesy of the artist. Photography by Eduardo Vasconcellos

In fact, many of the artists represented at Zona Maco—considered by many dealers to be the most important fair in Latin America—will be in the Venice exhibition, “Foreigners Everywhere,” which is being curated by Adriano Pedrosa, the artistic director of the Museu de Arte de São Paulo. They include Ana Segovia and Barbara Sánchez-Kane with Kurimanzutto (of CDMX and New York), Eduardo Terrazas with Proyectos Monclova (CDMX), and Superflex with OMR (ditto).

Kurimanzutto reported that its works by Segovia and Sánchez-Kane sold quickly on opening day. It also placed a piece by Abraham Cruzvillegas with an unidentified museum.

Belts, rivets, polyester and metal sculpture

Bárbara Sánchez-Kane, Look 4, 2023. Belts, rivets, polyester and metal. Image courtesy of the artist and kurimanzutto, Mexico City / New York Photos by Gerardo Landa Rojano / Eduardo López (GLR studio)

Sean Kelly, of New York and Los Angeles, also said it was doing well. Like Kasmin, it has been coming to the fair for many years and has a deep base of collectors here. Only late in the afternoon did Kelly and his director-daughter, Lauren, finally find time to begin taking stock of everything they had sold—a great part of the booth, it seemed.

Sean Kelly declined to give a full list of prices on the sold work, explaining, “We’re not being coy here. It’s been so busy that we haven’t been able to sit down and collate everything, which we’re trying to do now.”

Works by the Guadalajara-born sculptor Jose Dávila have sold briskly in the range of $15,000 to $85,000, the gallery said.

Other exhibitors were returning to the fair after a break. “This is our first time at the fair in three years, which I think says a lot,” said Christiana Ine-Kimba Boyle, senior sales director at Pace. “We’re working with new, younger Latin American artists and there’s also been a renewed focus on collectors from this region.”

One of those young Latin American artists is Alejandro Piñeiro Bello, an up-and-coming Cuban, 34 this year, who showed at Pace’s Seoul space last year. A solo exhibition spanning all three galleries of Pace’s London gallery is on tap (though the gallery does not represent him). His large, colorful paintings are psychedelic Caribbean landscapes, with all the lush jungle fullness of Gauguin. Ones titled Originario (2023) and Destellos En La Noche (2023) sold for $48,000 and $25,000, respectively.

Pace was also doing big business with its established artists from the Global North. A painting from the irrepressible painter-filmmaker Julian Schnabel went for $450,000, and one by Light and Space legend Mary Corse for $400,000.

Galleries have been careful to offer works in a range of prices. Maia Contemporary brought a work by Alan Glasson for $900 and a large series by Pedro Freidberg for $200,000. The CDMX-based gallery Furiosa sold two works by Alejandro Galvan for $45,000 and $11,000—a mid-tier range that is prevalent at the fair.

Meanwhile, in the Ejes section, which showcases smaller galleries, it was common to see works selling for around $1,000 to $2,000. Natalie Kates, of Kates-Ferri Projects (a New York venture), referred to these small, low-priced pieces as “Cash and carry”—cheap enough to pay for in cash and small enough to go home with the collector in an Uber. (That size also spares galleries prohibitive shipping costs.)

The wide range of prices at Zona Maco makes it an exciting place for a large swath of collectors and the people who advise them.

Jordan Pieper, the director of the advisory firm Delancey and Greene, told Artnet News of Zona Maco: “It’s appealing because we can offer our clients new material from galleries that we don’t often get to see at fairs in the States.”

The image is a painting of a man kissing and fondling another man.

Boris Torres, Amor de jovencitos, 2024. Image courtesy Kates-Ferri Projects

There is risky work here—a rarity at most art fairs. In the Ejes section, the curatorial theme of pleasure, has brought a lot of joyfully queer, remarkably explicit material to the fore, from Boris Torres at Kates-Ferri to Gonzalo Garcia at CAM Galeria. Hard and soft dicks, slits, and boobs abound around the fair in tender and complicated portraits of sexuality. With accessible prices, curatorial vision, and a strong market, queer Latin American artists in particular stand to gain a lot at this year’s edition of Zona Maco. It’s art history in the making.

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