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What to See in Mexico City During Art Week (and How to Stay Sane While Seeing it)

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It’s been 22 years since Zona MACO, Latin America’s largest art fair, launched in Mexico City. In the two decades since, the number of artists, galleries, collectors, satellite fairs, and tangentially-related happenings (Immersive art rave! Conceptual design pop-up! Multi-sensory experimental opera! Guided mezcal tasting/meditation experience!) in the Mexican capital has ballooned astronomically. It’s too much! There’s too much to see! To do! To taste! 

To cram what would be more than the equivalent of most cities’ entire annual calendar of cultural offerings into one week in the sprawling metropolis is insanity. CDMX is the capital of FOMO—with its made-for-Instagram culinary scene, dizzying nightlife, unchecked inequality, literal hundreds of museums, and oversaturation of art, design, theater, and music it feels like you’re always in the second best place. There’s always a more exclusive vernissage, a more decadent party, a more “authentic” neighborhood, a spicier salsa, a higher penthouse, a better kisser, a quicker shortcut, a more challenging/ earnest/ ironic/ heartbreaking artwork. 

I get asked for advice about “what’s the best ____ in Mexico City?” probably more than any other topic. So this year, I’m sharing my art week event picks—based on expertise gleaned spending the better part of the past decade always searching for some elusive superlative in the capital of extremes. 

One general piece of advice: take the subway or dedicated-lane Metrobús when you can (although this year, the extremely useful metro line 1 is closed for maintenance). Getting in a taxi in this city of perpetually-gridlocked traffic can take hours out of your day—and likely years off everyone’s life, as February is infamous smog season. 

Below, your best bets for Art Week 2024 without losing your mind trying to see it all. 

 

Saturday, Feb 3, 2024

Tania Ximena: Río Glaciar at LLANO and #ZZZ at Ballista
Laguna
Dr. Lucio 181, Doctores
Opening Feb 3, 11:00 am – 5:00 pm

Laguna is one of my favorite spots in Mexico City. A former factory, it’s been delicately renovated with a light touchthink patinaed walls but oh-so-crisp sage green crittal windows framing a mix of artist studios and light industrial businesses such as furniture or textile design ateliers. Today at least two galleries have openings, but there are probably a handful of other exhibitions and open studios, so be sure to wander.

The very excellent gallery LLANO is opening Tania Ximena: Río Glaciar in their main exhibition space, part of a series of projects about environmental catastrophes on view around town. But don’t miss out on their smaller showroom up on the rooftop, where a group show is on view, along with some of the best skyline vistas in town. Downstairs at Ballista, curators Paula Valadez and Mario Ballestero are opening #ZZZ, a group show in which emerging Mexican artists reflect on “rest” through conceptual bedding/ blanket designs. 

 

Deborah Castillo: Marx Palimpsest 
Vernacular Institute 
Sabino 276, Santa María la Ribera
Opening & Performance 8:00 pm 

I’ve long been a fan of Venezuelan-born performance artist Deborah Castillo, whose previous work has seen the iconoclastic artist kiss, bite, slap, eat, and generally get intimately messy with casts of busts of dictators from around the political spectrum in a variety of mutable materials, as well as other symbols of authority. In her continued examination of the dynamics between dogma, power, and her own body, she’ll be hand-writing monumental texts related to Marx (as well as likely performing other, more subversive actions) while “inviting the audience to delve into the contemplation of the historic tapestry woven by ideologies—both liberating and oppressive in nature.”

 

Monday, Feb 5, 2024

Material Monday
Various locations
Monday, Feb. 5: 4 pm – 8 pm 

On Monday, a dozen of the local galleries participating in Material Art Fair are hosting opening receptions in their brick-and-mortar spaces. Spread across six neighborhoods, you’d likely go insane trying to see them all in just four hours, especially considering weekday rush hour(s) take up the majority of that time frame.

My triage recommendation: hit up Maggie Petroni’s unsettlingly psychedelic solo show TRAUMACORE at General Expenses (Calle Revillagigedo 108) in Centro first, since it’s walking distance to plenty of earlier afternoon sightseeing opportunities. From there, it’s 20 minutes on the metro to Salón Silicón (Calle Tehuantepec 223, around the corner from Chilpancingo station).

All the galleries participating in Material Monday are great, but Salón Silicón is my favorite, so I’m prioritizing it as stop #2 to see Sofía Hinojosa’s Hotel Fatiga, a critical look at the tourism industry, concepts of leisure, and labor. From there, you’re close to other galleries in Roma, or a quick metro ride west on line 9 (against the eastbound rush hour crowds) to the galleries in Tacubaya and San Miguel Chapultepec.

 

Tuesday, Feb 6, 2024

Andrew Holmquist: Looking In All Wrong P L A C E S
Karen Huber Gallery
Bucareli 121, Col. Juárez
Opening: 6 pm – 11 pm

There are a million openings on Tuesday night, but I always prioritize Karen Huber’s. If anyone has their pulse on what’s good in painting, it’s her. She has a knack for finding promising young painters with a je ne sais quoi and launching their careers on the international stage. This is American painter Andrew Holmquist’s first solo show in Mexico City, and just based on the few images I’ve seen, it’s going to be great.

Holmquist’s moody nocturnes are inspired by the artist’s years living in Berlin, wandering the city as a flâneur. They appropriately nod to German expressionism, but have a color palette very much of this century (read my Theory as to why Everything is Suddenly Periwinkle). 

I’m also recommending Karen Huber as a great starting point for wherever your art-viewing evening takes you because it’s so very central—walking distance to most of the galleries in Roma Norte, Juárez, and Centro.

 

Eduardo Sarabia: Four Minutes of Darkness
Galería OMR
Córdoba 100, Roma Norte
Opening 6 – 9 pm

OMR is another powerhouse of the Mexico City art scene, and I can’t think of a more appropriate setting for Eduardo Sarabia’s ceramics and stained glass. The gorgeously renovated  brutalist building has a cathedral-like quality, and putting Sarabia’s contemporary updates of traditional craft in such a space is a curatorial alchemy that’s almost too on-the-nose to be as brilliant as I’m sure it will be.

Wednesday, Feb 7, 2024

yo sé que te acordarás (I Know You’ll Remember)
Culto Colecta
Calle Lisboa 46, Juárez
Opening: Feb 7: Noon – 10:00 pm 

Picture rows of confronting gazes, from eight curators and more than two dozen artists, all crammed into a vintage 1970s Mexico City bus. It might sound like one of the delightfully surreal AI text prompts from participating artist Beth Frey (read our interview with the multimedia alchemist here) but it’s a real-life portraiture exhibition from Culto Colecta, which will be parked in front of the art fair CLAVO Movimiento (details below) through February 11th. 

Curators: Andrea Bustillos, Amado Cabrales, Verana Codina, Isabel Deheza, Kristell Henry, Laos Salazar, Ixchel Ledesma, Tonatiuh López.

Artists: Adrián Gómez, Aglae Cortés, Alex Cabrera, Alejandro Galván, Andrea Villalon, Angela Leyva, Antonio Barrientos, Beth Frey, Diana Padilla Ríos, Edgar Silva, Jonathan García, Jorge León, José Luis Cuevas, Luis Campos, Michele Lorusso, Michelle Sitton, Mónica Figueroa, Munir Toral, Nahum B Zenil, Natalia Berzunza, Paola Lopez, Paulina Zamora, Paulo Romero, Pilar Córdoba, Raida, Santísima Kitsch, Scott Galvan, Yvonne Venegas

 

Open Studios
Biquini Wax
Pedro de Alba 232, Iztaccihuatl
6 10 pm

There’s a popular myth in the art scene that (maybe this is true?) when certain biennial curators came to Mexico City, they made a beeline for Biquini Wax and asked the crew there what’s good in townselecting recommended artists on the spot based on portfolios carted and spread out around the informal artist-run space over beers. If I were curating a biennial, I might do the same. Biquini Wax has always been an unpretentious entry point to the CDMX art world, with quality, often-experimental work and a sense of community that makes me miss art school.

Tonight, they’re having open studios and showing archival material from the art collective El Colegio de la Desextinción’s recent documentary film Cráter. I’m honestly more excited to check out the open studios here than pretty much any art fair!

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Zona MACO 2020

Zona MACO
Centro Citibanamex, Av. del Conscripto 311
Wednesday, 5 – 8 pm
Thursday and Friday, 1 – 8 pm 
Saturday, 12 – 8 pm
Sunday 11 am – 6 pm
Tickets

Zona MACO (México Arte Contemporáneo) is the mother of all Mexican art fairs. It’s where you’ll find most of the big blue chip galleries from abroad, as well as the heavyweights of the Mexico City scene. Mostly, I look forward to seeing some of the smaller project booths and galleries from the rest of Latin America who often don’t make it to other big fairs in the US or Europe. Caveat: getting there sucks.

It’s inexplicably located in the least charming and most inconvenient corner of the city between a military base and horse racing track, far from any metro lines, galleries, cool neighborhoods, or other fairs. I’m recommending you skip opening day and check it out on Thursday, so you’re not in a rush to catch the aforementioned events on the other side of the city—depending on traffic, your Uber ride there and back might take longer than you actually spend in the fair.

Pro tip: Museo Jumex is actually not too far away by cab and opens at 10 am, so you can catch the soon-to-close exhibition of the foundation’s impressive permanent collection in the morning before heading to the fair. 

 

BADA
Campo Marte
Thursday – Sunday, 11 am – 8 pm 
Tickets

Confession: I have never actually checked out BADA, but I’m intrigued! This year, I’m going to stop by after my MACO pilgrimage because it’s located in Campo Marte, just south of bougie Polanco, on the way back to the cool parts of town closer to the center.

It’s also next to metro Auditorio, so if you want to check out galleries or restaurants in the artsy neighborhoods south of Bosque de Chapultepec, it’s a subterranean breeze a world away from the spaghetti-mess of freeways choking the park. It’s also the end of the line for the cute double-decker line 7 of Metrobus, which runs the length of Paseo de Reforma in dedicated lanes, so for six pesos you could also ride back to Juárez, traffic-free, and get some sightseeing in.

Mostly, I’m curious about BADA’s model. The fair presents solo booths from independent artists—no gallerists or dealers involved. According to the organizers, this translates to a better deal for both artists and collectors. I am imagining it might also make for a kinda uneven fair without that extra level of curatorial oversight. But whatever the fair looks like, it seems to be working—the fair is in its fourth year, boasting editions in Buenos Aires and Madrid.

 

Friday, February 9, 2024

Material 
Expo Reforma, Morelos 67
Thursday, First Look, 12 – 2pm (by invitation only), Private View, 2 – 5pm (by invitation only)
Opening Night, 5 – 8pm
Friday – Saturday, 12 – 8pm
Sunday, 12 – 7pm
Tickets

Material, now in its tenth year, is arguably my favorite art fair. It’s a great, smartly-curated mix of emerging and established galleries, and has struck a perfect balance of international and local exhibitors. Mostly, there’s something about this fair that seems to encourage risk-taking, experimentation, and a playful sensibility.

Be sure to check out Beverly’s—New York’s neon-drenched art bar with a cult following—that does a pop-up in the fair annually, bringing a mix of installations, booze, and programming that makes the whole affair feel like one big, very cool party. I’m recommending you skip the opening night and do Material on Friday, so you can start here and walk to all the other nearby fairs in Juárez. 

 

Salón ACME
Calle Gral. Prim 30
Thursday, 4 – 8 pm
Friday – Sunday, 11 am – 8 pm 
Tickets

This is an artist-run, curator-centric fair in a sprawling, fancy dilapidated building in the heart of Juárez (about a 5 minute walk south from Material). Think the Mexican version of New York’s SPRING/BREAK and you get the idea! Like most art fairs, the content can be a bit hit-or-miss, but the setting alone is worth a visit. 

Clavo Movimiento

CLAVO Movimiento
Antiguo edificio Escuela de Electricistas, Calle Lisboa # 46
Friday, 2 – 10 pm 
Saturday, 12  –10 pm 
Sunday, 12 – 7 pm 
Tickets

Like Salón ACME, CLAVO is an artist-run fair that takes advantage of idiosyncratic vacant buildings. It also used to be housed in a wild old mansion, but now it’s in a former electrician school. And like ACME, it’s walking distance from Material.

If you’ve got the energy, it’s totally doable to see all three fairs in one day—and their privileged locations in Juárez means they’re close to some of the best pit stops for food/coffee/cocktails in town. Mostly, I like CLAVO because (as of the last time I went) it still offered great art at more accessible prices than some of the other fairs.

 

todo-mundo art book fair
Edificio Humboldt, Calle del artículo 123, no. 116, 4th floor
Thursday – Saturday, 12 – 8pm
Sunday, 12 – 6 pm

Terremoto magazine’s publications division Temblores presents this art book fair in conjunction with Material, in the legendary Edificio Humboldt, right on the border of Centro and Juárez. This is another stop you can tack on to the day you do the other Juárez fairs, but if you’re like me, you’ll probably get totally lost checking out tomes, zines, and multiples from a staggering 23 cities and 10 countries represented by vendors here. Edificio Humboldt also usually has some exhibitions and/or open studios, so be sure to wander.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Gabriel Orozco

Gabriel Orozco
kurimanzutto 
Opening 12 – 2 pm
Gob. Rafael Rebollar 94, San Miguel Chapultepec

Gabriel Orozco is one of Mexico City’s biggest art stars, and his oeuvre is a bit hard to describe. The last time I saw a show of his at kurimanzutto, he had transformed a large swath of the architecturally-stunning gallery into a convenience store where everything was free.

This time, we can expect something a little more conventional—abstract stone sculptures and botanically-inspired works on paper that nod to a sense of place, a tribute to the various homes the artist has had. It sounds like it should be a nice, meditative “calm before the storm” ahead of the next item on our itinerary, which is conveniently located in the nearby park.

 

Closing of the Castillo de Chapultepec auction 
El Cisne
Agustín Melgar 73, San Miguel Chapultepec
4 – 10 pm

Basically every artist I know in Mexico City has a piece in this auction in the castle at the heart of Bosque de Chapultepec (yes, Mexico City has a real castle! The only one in the Americas!). As if that’s not enough of a draw in and of itself, I suspect the people watching will be wild, as the week-long bidding process comes to a close and a veritable who’s who of the art scene will likely be there. If you want to get in on the action, you can bid online here starting Tuesday.

 

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Open Studios
Fresno 301, Atlampa
12 – 8 pm

I am a little bit obsessed with Beth Frey’s work. She has a hybrid video/painting/AI-generated image practice (her Instagram account @sentientmuppetfactory specializing in the latter has gone totally viral for its sheer weirdness) that veers wildly from the uncanny valley to something bordering the sublime. If you’re curious about her process(es), this is your chance to check out how the very strange sausage gets made.

Frey has a space in the school/studio building Fresno 301, which is conveniently located close to a lot of the galleries in Santa Maria la Ribera (the new emerging arts neighborhood a bit north of the central city). If after a week of art fairs, you need to restore your faith in art for art’s sake, a visit to the muppet factory itself might be just the prescription.

 

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