5 Shows to See in Mexico City This Week during Zona Maco
There is no better time for the culturally voracious to gorge on the excesses of Mexico City’s exhibition offerings than the city’s Art Week each February. Anchored by the Zona Maco fair and its two satellite fairs, Material and Salon Acme, the air crackles with anticipation as Mexico’s art spaces, both large and small, pull out their annual program highlights. With 2024 marking the 20th anniversary of Zona Maco and the 10th of Material, this year promises to be an unusually effervescent iteration.
Known for gallery heavyweights, like Kurimanzutto, OMR, and Labor, the city is also home to a range of small and mid-sized projects with programs that consistently punch above their weight. International arrivals like Commonwealth and Council and Mariane Ibrahim are further expanding the breadth and depth of the city’s exhibition spaces.
Paradoxically the recent international attention has in some ways made the city a victim of its own success with the echo of the pandemic tourism boom proving a complex blessing. Rents, prices, and tensions are up. Visitors in 2024 should not be surprised to find what locals have long known: Mexico City is not cheap.
Characteristically, despite its struggles, or maybe because of them, Mexico’s charms persist. International fascination continues unabated, so the city, and its art scene, grows. While few of the small and artist-run spaces remain truly non-commercial, the following is a selection of under-the-radar presentations with independent spirts offering visitors uniquely Chilango perspectives.
“A Stubborn Man and a Hermit Walk into a Bar” at Peana
Founded in 2017 in Monterrey, Mexico, by Ana Pérez Escoto, Peana launched as a platform for experimental art that has over the years held off-site exhibitions in New York and Mexico City, and now maintains a permanent gallery space in Mexico City’s Roma Sur neighborhood. For 2024 Art Week, Peana continues its off-site program with a group exhibition at the Casa/Estudio Nancarrow, the home of Mexican-American composer Conlon Nancarrow that was designed by architect Juan O’Gorman.
Curated by Pérez Escoto, Mercedes Gómez, and Joseph del Pesco, “A Stubborn Man and a Hermit Walk into a Bar” offers visitors a unique opportunity to visit Casa/Estudio Nancarrow. Opened in 2020 after an extensive restoration, the home is a gem of Mexican organic architecture and a testament to the friendship and personalities of its former occupant, who fled the US in 1940 concerned about repercussions of his Communist Party affiliations, as well as that of Nancarrow’s friend and intellectual comrade O’Gorman.
The show brings together work by 24 artists that are installed throughout the home and the garden, some of which are site-specific creations. Others, according to the curators, are meant to “coexist with the ghosts of the artists” and reveal specific aspects of the home, as a way to reveal the ambivalent and evolving relationship of both men to their art.
February 6–March 2, at Casa/Estudio Nancarrow, Calzasa de las Águilas 46, Los Alpes, Alvaro Obregon, 01010.
Newton at Lodos
Mexico City gallery Lodos, founded by artist and gallerist Francisco Cordero-Oceguera, presents “El Muerto,” the first presentation of a new body of work in 20 years by Newton, the Mexican conceptual artist and sculptor who shows under his nom de plume. With 28 drawings framed in bronze bas-reliefs, the show pays homage to Georges Bataille’s posthumously published novel Le Mort, about a woman grieving the sudden death of her lover with eroticism and demented despair. (The show is accompanied by a reissue of Bataille’s book translated into Spanish by Raúl Falcó, edited by Mauricio Marcín, and illustrated by Newton.)
In “El Muerto,” Newton continues her decades-long mix of humor and eroticism with drawings that wander between the explicit and the suggestive, basking in the power of subtle allusion. Having participated in more than 50 group and solo shows since 1984, Newton is an enigmatic fixture of the Mexican contemporary art landscape. She has never professionally presented her work under her true name, though hints in her erotic pieces stealthy suggest her true identity. This semi-anonymity allows her certain freedoms, in the way that the “little death” blurs the line between individuality and other dimensions.
February 5–March 23, at Turín 38b, Col. Juárez, Ciudad de México, 06600.
Leandro Pesantes at N.A.S.A.L.
Launched in 2021, N.A.S.A.L. is a gallery founded by Mauricio Aguirre with locations in Guayaquil, Ecuador, and Mexico City. The project’s mission is to support and foster the practices of South American artists by setting their work in dialogue with international contexts and dialogues both through the two gallery spaces and participation in international art fairs.
Organized by Mexican curator Natalia de la Rosa, “Dicho Por Las Piedras / Told by the Stones” presents the work of Ecuadorian artist Leandro Pesantes. Pesantes offers a meditation on Nordic runes and spiritual journeys that unite natural elements with symbols and mysticism. Arranged in circular patterns, Pasantes’s sculptures—found objects to which she often adds ash, wood, and stone—refer to ideas around magic, protection, and healing as an invitation for viewers to find meanings and read futures in them.
February 6–March 30, at San Luis Potosí 123, Col Roma Norte, Cuauhtémoc, 06700.
Maggie Petroni at General Expenses
An alternative art space founded in Mexico City’s Centro Historico in 2022, General Expenses aims to make space for the latest generation of Mexican artists by promoting dialogue between their work and cultural institutions and its exhibition program includes an open-call component.
“Truamacore,” Argentine artist Magdalena (Maggie) Petroni’s latest exhibition, is at once an installation, sculpture, and a haunted house, which Petroni sees as a manifestation of what she calls a “psychotraumatological gesture.” She has transformed the gallery into a film set of nightmares, with her labyrinthine halls of plywood are stocked with fiendish sculptural jump-scares.
February 5– March 30, at Revillagigedo 108, Colonia Centro Historico, Cuauhtémoc, 06010.
Leah Dixon at Local1
Local1 is a nonprofit and artist residency space founded by Mexican artist Sergio Bromberg in 2019. A second iteration of his experimental space in Los Angeles, Local1 is sustained by the bar in which the gallery is nestled. For Art Week, Local1 presents “Saturno,” an installation by artist Leah Dixon, who co-founded a similar space, New York’s artist-run project and nightlife institution Beverly’s.
Dixon’s “Saturno” takes as its inspiration the Roman holiday Saturnalia, a celebration of community and connection that likely influenced many Western European Christmas celebrations. With a faith and trust in the power of what can happens when artists merely set a stage, as seen by the kindred projects of Local1 and Beverly’s, Dixon’s exhibition, which she sees as “co-creating new mythologies of partying as unification,” emphasizes the human need for community and connection amid uncertainty.
From February 6, at Alvaro Obregon 228, Col. Roma Norte.
5 Shows to See in Mexico City This Week during Zona Maco