Whitehot Magazine

A Week In Mexico City’s Art Scene

Open studios at Laguna fabrication and office space collective, right outside of Roma Norte

March 18, 2024

It never seems like the right time for an art fair in a distant location to interject into the insanity of New York life. Yet, it’s always the perfect time to go to Mexico. I found myself in the heart of Mexico City, between Condesa and Roma, straggling along behind the fluid scene of international hipsters which seamlessly emerges from lofts and airplanes during this time of year. It was Zona Maco art fair week in the city, and I was determined to capture a whiff of the living art scene. I made a point to set about my way on MATERIAL Monday to start things off, wandering from gallery to art collective for a flourish of openings, at spaces highlighted by the preeminent independent fair – now in its 10th year. As tends to happen, my favorite days of the art week ended up being the start of it, in retrospect. That’s when you get to crawl curiously through unexpected spaces, making occasional giddy eye contact with another curator or artist coolly acting like they are just there for the art.

French artist Loup Sarion’s “Saliva” works at MATERIAL Fair harked of William Kentridge’s set design for Shostakovich’s opera, “The Nose.”

I started out my jaunt through the Roma and Condesa neighborhoods by lunchtime on Monday, encountering some charming ground floor galleries such as Salón Silicón and Peana. Minimalist works of glass, cement, and metal castings were on display, which was honestly refreshing on the eyes after the typical pop-art swirl of Art Basel Miami. The first notable work I saw was a glass pool chair by Sofía Hinojosa, which seemed like an appropriate transition - an impossible leisure item. It took me a moment to enter the conglomerate building which houses the Llano galleries, but it was worth pittering about on my phone for a QR code to be scanned by registrars. On the roof of the complex (which seemed to house a few galleries, stores, and individual artist studios) - a gorgeous landscape of experimental installations took my breath away. I had arrived just in time to catch the last sunset light, and I joined curious clusters of fashionable, black-clad creatives to crawl through open cement doorways, which led to rooftop galleries. A standout in the Llano group show was a painting by Mauricio Muñoz, who the gallerist told me was trying to bring out the feminine energy in pop culture depictions of aliens.

A painting by Mauricio Muñoz inside of Llano’s group show.

MATERIAL Monday rounded off with the farest flung gallery in Juárez (an up and coming neighborhood bordering Roma Norte): General Expenses. I rolled up to the space with a friend, and we knew we had hit the right dark alley when we saw a crowd in jackets spilling out of a rolling gate entryway. The set up of the place firmly evoked the mood of Bong Joon-ho’s short film “Interior Design” (one third of the “Tokyo!” anthology, 2008). In that story, the boyfriend makes his directorial debut to a small art world audience with fog and smoke, leaving them coughing, and states, “The audience should not feel safe.” Well, at General Expenses, you got just that vibe, ducking through a narrow corrugated metal door into a makeshift labyrinth, at the tail end of which we encountered a transfixed audience observing taxidermied roosters rotating about, and crashing, on top of roomba vacuums. In another room, a giant black head peered with a grin and red pupils down from its ceiling hover point, an ominous work by Maggie Petroni. Still further, a simple bat in a hot pink-backed cardboard box was pinned with open wings. Upstairs, we found the gallerists lighting up some cigarettes as I waited for the bathroom, which both added to the dissociative aura of the cramped gallery installation below, and signaled for the over-eager crowd to start squeezing their way out of the metal grate for closing time. A large entourage continued to not take the hint as we emerged from the space.

Eduardo Sarabia’s immersive solo show at OMR.

We ended the night by visiting the prolific film photographer and figure model Natalie White at her collaborative show with Issa Saliander, inside the mod Mondrian hotel (via Hilario Galguera Gallery). The intrepid Ms. White was running out of posters to sign for her refined crowd of a few hundred when I arrived, and the video installation of her moving in light gave an ethereal femme accent to the glam central pool area. The following night, Eduardo Sarabia stole the show with his much anticipated solo project at the gallery OMR, “Cuatro Minutos De Oscuridad,” which immersed the statuesque gallery. Crisp murals of spiky vines laced over the walls and an archway structure in the center of the tall space, inside of which, a lush blue and yellow stained glass mosaic depicted chalices flowing, earth, and stars. I had arrived early and was grateful I had, for the opening was simply rushed by every collector, visitor and local in town, and viewers stood in awe. Sarabia works in materials favored by local craftspeople in Northern Mexico, examining the “exoticization” of Mexican culture. Black sculptures of thorny roses and birds wove through the installation-exhibition, providing a mysterious contrast to the celebratory vibrance of the dominant botanical imagery.

A room of Javier Morales Casas’ surreal, maritime pictographic paintings and ceramic sculptures was a place to get lost in at Salón Acme.

On the weekend, I made it to the annual art week’s hottest ticket fairs: Salón Acme and MATERIAL, in their eleventh and tenth years, respectively. Situated close together in Juárez, they each have quite a different aesthetic. Salón Acme takes place in a historic building with some crumbling but beautiful walls, making up a confusing patchwork maze, over several floors. Consequently, the “treasure search” quality of exploring a big contemporary art show is enhanced by the architecture. If only the show wasn’t completely sold out with a massive line down the block – the walkways and stairs moved like cooling lava. A captivating work was “Precious?” by Indonesian artist Catherine Anabella Lie, an iPhone with a video playing of itself talking to its user after being discarded - in quite a sassy tone. In a series of chaotic iMessages and memes, the phone showed itself being dumped from a cargo ship into Nigeria. This playfully contrite work made one’s eyes spin, because it was surrounded by viewers holding up their iPhones to film it in a small, dense space — as if they were observing the Mona Lisa. I couldn’t help but view the absurd scene as its own commentary on the dissolution of visual aesthetics in the post-internet era.

Captivated viewers recording Catherine Anabella Lie’s work, “Precious?” at Salón Acme.

I would be remiss not to mention the group exhibition “yo sé que te acordarás,” which was located on a historic green bus with red and blue stripes. Organized via seven curators through culto colecta, the project featured each bus seat occupied by a self-portrait done by a different artist, presented in various styles. Curators asked visitors mounting the bus not to take photos, harking to the title of the show, which translates to “I know you will remember.” The show aimed to examine the real and fictitious identities we encounter, while also operating on an archival level. When I got off the bus and started up a chat, I was surprised to learn the collective’s organizer Andronik Khachiian was a Russian expat, who has worked in several art communities around the world. WM

Julia Sinelnikova

 Julia Sinelnikova is an artist and writer in New York City. 

view all articles from this author