ZONAMACO 2016: Eye Candy to Ay-Ay-Ay

By Kahren Jones Arbitman

The fifteenth edition of ZONAMACO (Zona Mexico Arte Contemporaneo) on February 3-7 drew the in-crowd to Mexico City for a five day art fest. ZONAMACO unabashedly calls itself Latin America’s most important art fair. No one would disagree. This year over 100 international galleries brought their offerings into Centro Banamex and ancillary spaces. While modeled on Art Basel, a distinct Latin flair set ZONAMACO apart. The atmosphere sizzled. Accompanying parties lasted till sunrise. The punch was spiked and so were the heels. Collectors, connoisseurs, curators, and the curious wandered from space to space taking in an artistic spectrum that ranged from old chestnuts to the frankly bizarre.

Big name galleries brought big name artists: New York’s Gagosian showed Ed Ruscha; Lisson from London featured Ai Weiwei; Cardi from Milan brought Lucio Fontana. Almost hidden among the outrageous works that included a Tower of Babel molded in melting animal fat and a display of trash-filled UGG boots, was my personal favorite: an acrylic painting by Carol Bove depicting a chain draped over a table. Each link was meticulously created with tiny staccato strokes. Understated and subtle, it was magic.

There was an embarrassing number of identical reflective concave disks by Anish Kapoor, at least three by my count, shown at different galleries. While they varied in color, their virtual repetition gave an unavoidable air of mass production to one of contemporary art’s real stars.

A crowd favorite was an ongoing installation by Mexican albañiles in jeans and hoodies who painstakingly applied small metallic tiles to an object that simultaneously looked like a toilet and Carlos Slim’s Museo Soumaya. Its cost: US$50,000—well within reach for Señor Slim.

San Miguel was wonderfully represented by YAM Gallery, whose owner Adolfo Caballero filled his space with exquisite drawings by Algerian artist Massinissa Selmani, (who won the drawing prize at the 2015 Venice Biannale), and Charles Freger’s large square photographs of African American Mardi Gras dancers, consumed in radiant feathered costumes, their whirling forms creating an image of abstracted exuberance. Sanmiguelense Ana Quiroz’s sculpture “Vertical Garden” drew lots of attention. Its propped workaday ladder intertwined with butterflies and glass garden specimens molded from living material was dazzling.

While by far the largest, Centro Banamex was only one of the exhibition spaces. Dozens of independent galleries took part, as did public museums and private venues. The Museo de Arte Moderno upstaged them all with two stunning exhibitions: the first by famed photographer Lee Miller (whose extraordinary life included being a Vogue model, Man Ray’s mistress, a war photographer, and bathing in Hitler’s bathtub); and the second by Francisco Toledo called “Duelo (Grief,)” that lays bare the horror of Mexican gang warfare and its innocent victims.

Even at my frenetic pace, I could take in only a small part of the spectacle. Abandoning surface transportation for the metro helped a little, but much was left unseen. ZONAMACO 2017 is already on my calendar, but next time I plan to stay awake for the parties.

 

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