Five Highlights from Mexico City’s Zona Maco Art Fair

by Bryan Rindfuss February 10, 2024
A sculpture comprising hang red plastic pieces with a single viewer standing to its left.

Julio Le Parc “Sphère Rouge (Red Sphere)”

The brainchild of Monterrey native Zélika García, Mexico City’s Zona Maco art fair is in the midst of a 20th anniversary celebration that looks boldly into the future, but also spotlights longtime supporters who’ve contributed to its exponential growth. Proudly billed as the “largest art fair in Latin America,” Zona Maco comprises sprawling sections devoted to contemporary art, photography, design, antiquities, and books — not to mention pop-up restaurants and bars aplenty. While dramatic, photo-ready installations have long been a Zona Maco mainstay, the 20th edition brought them to the forefront via “Forma” — a special program that invited fair veterans to install large-scale works in the convention center’s maze-like hallways. The list below, pared down from hundreds of exhibitors, highlights five galleries that made memorable statements at this year’s fair, which is taking place from February 7-11 at Centro Citibanamex.

Five framed artworks of contemporary surrealism.

Work by Lim Wenhui at Patricia Conde Galería

Patricia Conde Galería (Mexico City)

Although it comprises just 18 galleries, Zona Maco’s photography section packed a big punch this year. Few booths, however, made for the sort of bewildering impact of the eight-person show Patricia Conde Galería presented in collaboration with curator Alejandro Cartagena and the AI photography platform Fellowship. Finnish artist Roope Rainisto’s startling Welfare Society No. 2 conjured a post-apocalyptic city ablaze through a cinematic lens reminiscent of Blade Runner. Turkish polymath and self-described “outsider AI artist” Alkan Avcıoğlu’s series Overpopulated Symphonies crammed an unfathomable number of purportedly human figures into precarious urban landscapes. Based in Singapore and best recognized for her playful series Nice Aunties, artist Lim Wenhui veered into grittier territory with images involving sushi, cars, and body parts. Serving up a bit of comic relief, eight of her signature aunties also made an appearance — bathing and giggling together in a massive bowl of ramen. At a time when artificial intelligence is complicating — and threatening — the boundaries of art, the selection at Patricia Conde deftly reminded that this particular strain of Instagram fodder couldn’t exist without the bizarre ideas and visual recipes concocted by human artists.

Two tables contain dozens of piggy banks in different shapes, such as a money bag, a parking meter and various figures.

Work by Luis Molina Pantin and Emilio Chapela at Henrique Faria

Henrique Faria (New York)

Conceptual Latin American art is the name of the game for Venezuelan gallerist Enrique Faria’s namesake New York space. Among the 11 artists represented in Faria’s Zona Maco booth, the work of Mexican artist Emilio Chapela and Venezuelan artist Luis Molina-Pantin paired intriguingly well based on parallel themes surrounding money and power. After deconstructing the logos of Starbucks, Walmart, McDonald’s, UBS, Google, Amazon, Telcel, and Coca-Cola, Chapela created a flag for each corporation and arranged them in a fashion reminiscent of a gathering of nations. Amusingly blurring lines between kitsch and fine art, Molina-Pantin’s sculptural installation 42 Piggy Banks from Mexican Intervened or Bankrupted Banks presented E.T., a teddy bear, a ghost, a whale, and dozens of other nostalgic characters as objects worthy of being protected and displayed in glass vitrines.

LED light sculptures and a cactus sculpture made from border patrol uniforms fill a booth at an art fair.

Works by Margarita Cabrera and James Clar at Jane Lombard Gallery

Jane Lombard Gallery (New York)

It’s always a thrill to find a contemporary Texas artist represented at Zona Maco — and it doesn’t happen as often as one might think. Arguably the star of Jane Lombard Gallery’s three-person show, El Paso artist Margarita Cabrera had eight works on display, including impressive examples of the curious soft sculptures she crafts from vinyl, thread, and foam. Dominating one corner, her installation Agua Que No Has de Beber, Déjala Correr (Water That You Should Not Drink, Let it Run) is comprised of 50 toylike Humvees seemingly raining down from the sky — with plenty of strings attached. Propped up against one wall, Cabrera’s Bicicleta Verde (Green) demonstrates her knack for playful representation — complete with metal spokes and a possibly flat tire. Neatly juxtaposed with LED wall sculptures by Wisconsin-born, Philippines-based artist James Clar, Cabrera’s Space in Between – Saguaro (Guadalupe A.) exemplifies one of her recurring signatures — cacti rendered from repurposed Border Patrol uniforms and embroidered by Latin American immigrants during workshops the artist organizes in border communities.

Three paintings in the style of geometrical abstraction hang side by side.

Work by Hilma’s Ghost at Galería RGR

Galería RGR (Mexico City)

Founded by Ricardo González in Venezuela and now based in Mexico City, Galería RGR shows a global assortment of artists bound by the vast language of abstraction. Compiling a stunning assortment of works by 20 artists, RGR’s Zona Maco booth took the cake with no shortage of eye candy. Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez’s optical trickery — which is next to impossible to convey in a photograph — was on full display in striped and argyle-esque examples from his Physichromie Panam series. Made up of artists and “sorcerers” Sharmistha Ray and Dannielle Tegeder, the Brooklyn-based feminist collective Hilma’s Ghost champions sacred geometry and spiritual abstraction with meticulously rendered acrylic paintings with incredibly long names. Case in point: 2023’s Shake off your chains! You are attracted to the dark side, but channel The Devil to push you to greater heights. If you seek clarity, cut the etheric cords with anything that is not serving you in this moment. A golden passage lies on the other side of your self-doubt. Raise your sword up and retreat from the palace of illusion.

Prominently positioned outside the RGR booth as part of Zona Maco’s “Forma” exhibition, Argentinian op-art master Julio Le Parc’s imposing Sphère Rouge (Red Sphere) cast an otherworldly spell with nearly three thousand translucent red Plexiglas squares suspended with clear nylon thread. 

A blonde woman smiles at the camera while standing inside a golden sculpture

Puma Swede photographed in Osvaldo González’s “Camino”

Galleria Continua (San Gimignano, Beijing, Les Moulins, Havana, Rome, São Paulo, Paris, Dubai)

Although Le Parc’s Sphère Rouge is destined to be one of Zona Maco’s most popular selfie destinations, it’ll likely be neck and neck with Galleria Continua’s contribution to “Forma.” Created by Cuban artist Osvaldo González, the glimmering installation Camino transformed ordinary materials — LED lights and an unfathomable amount of packing tape — into a captivating walk-through experience. Resembling the makeshift entrance to a spacecraft, the site-specific Camino attracted a lot of attention from Zona Maco visitors — including influencer and blogger Puma Swede, whose hair and accessories appeared curated for the very occasion.

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