Zona Maco Prepares for Its 20th Anniversary Edition
When Zona Maco was founded 20 years ago by Zélika García, Mexico City’s art scene was just at the beginning of its latest boom. Looking at some of the city’s top galleries today, Galería OMR had been in business for about a decade, and the founders of Kurimanzutto, José Kuri and Monica Manzutto, have been staging outré projects with the artists they would later represent for around five years.
In the two decades since, the fair has established itself as one of the most important within Latin America, and its date in early February is a welcome reprieve for visitors coming from winter climates. Among the fair’s hallmarks has been inviting curators to organize special sections, a rarity back in the early 2000s. Among those who have organized those sections are curators like Adriano Pedrosa, Pablo León de la Barra, Patrick Charpenel, and others. The fair has only continued to grow in recent years, adding satellites for design (in 2011), antiquities (2014), and photography (2015), which all came under the same roof in 2023.
For this edition, the fair has hired a new artistic director, Direlia Lazo. ARTnews spoke with Lazo ahead of the fair to learn more about what visitors should expect this week, including its curated sections and new $100,000 prize.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
ARTnews: Can you speak about your involvement with Zona Maco and its legacy on the occasion of its 20th anniversary?
Direlia Lazo: My journey with the fair began in 2021. I was invited to curate the Ejes section, so I have been involved with it for three years now. It has been very enriching to see the growth and to go through different phases. I feel very lucky to start in this position in a celebratory edition because, of course, it’s a moment, looking back to the first one and how the different visions have been articulated. Bringing curators [to organize sections of the fair] have been central to the evolution of the discourse at the fair.
The moment when Zona Maco decided to have like the Sur section, for example, was a pivotal moment. Many of the curators who have passed through Sur are now playing a major role internationally, like Adriano Pedrosa, who was one of the first curators of the Sur section [in 2009, 2010, and 2011], is the curator of the  Venice Biennale. When I saw the list of artists for the Venice Biennale, I realized that we will have so many artists from that list who will also be showcased at the fair. In the Ejes section, [the Indigenous Brazilian artist collective] MAHKU will be presented by Carmo Johnson Projects. In the main [galleries] section, Ana Segovia and Barbara Sánchez-Kane will be presented by Kurimanzutto, Frieda Toranzo Jaeger by Travesía Cuatro, Eduardo Terrazas by Proyectos Monclova, Olga de Amaral and Miguel Angel Rojas by La Cometa, Superflex by OMR, and Ione Saldanha by Simões de Assis, among others.
In a way, revisiting this history, it all makes sense where Zona Maco is right now—seeing these two scenes grow together and their importance in the art world. And, of course, Mexico City has always been very vibrant and rich, and right now people are paying more attention to the culture of Mexico.
Are there any special initiatives this year that are celebrating this moment?
We created this platform called Forma for the first time. We invited galleries with longtime relationships with the fair to propose special projects. We received a number of proposals showcasing historic works, site-specific pieces, and works that have been shown in museums abroad but haven’t been seen in Mexico. So, we put together this program that is meant for large-scale sculpture that will be placed around the fair. I’m really passionate about this because in my curatorial journey, I have been very involved in site-specific and large-scale programs. It’s something I’d like to continue for the future of the fair. Among the projects this year are a historic piece by Mathias Goeritz, presented by La Caja Negra Gallery; Galleria Continua will feature an immersive installation by Osvaldo Gonzalez, and Henrique Faria and RGR will offer a site-specific installations by Emilio Chapela and Julio Le Parc, respectively. Also, Ehrhardt Florez Gallery will introduce sculptures by Rosa Tharrats, Kurimanzutto will showcase a Gabriel Kuri sculpture, and OMR will present a giant vase piece by Eduardo Sarabia.
Another highlight is that we will be announcing the winner of a $100,000 prize, which is a collaboration with Erarta Foundation in Vienna. I believe it’s the biggest prize in art-fair history. It’s not an acquisition prize—we did something that I love. It’s just a prize that will be chosen by the public and the amount will be shared equally between the winning artist and their gallery. Visitors to the fair will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite work. We invited all the galleries participating at the fair to submit up to three works [for consideration for the prize], and from there the curatorial team at Zona Maco and the team at Erarta put together this short list of 20 finalists. I’m looking forward how it will be received.
Can you talk about this year’s curated sections and what visitors should expect from these sections, which are so much a part of the fair’s DNA?
This year, we have Bernardo Mosqueira, who is the chief curator of ISLAA [Institute for Studies on Latin American Art] in New York, curating the Ejes section, which is the one I first did. He will delve into “pressure and politics” as the theme of the section. When Bernardo presented that theme, we said, “Wow, this is a very bold stance for a fair,” because at the end of the day art fairs are commercial platforms. I am myself looking forward to seeing it in the flesh because the selection features artists whose work deals with gender disobedience, how to experience living together in non-traditional ways. Those themes can be, maybe for the general audience, not pleasant but it’s something that we have to confront them and we are living in that moment.
And Luiza Teixeira de Freitas, who is an independent curator, is the curator of Sur section, and she’s focusing on generosity and care, which I think resonate very deeply with the moment that we’re living in right now. This is the first time I believe that these two sections are related to each other and that was totally by accident. The way we work is that we don’t aim to have a consensus, which I like very much because then you can see diversity and different points of view. But when I was reading their texts [for their sections], I realized that they are addressing these issues of how we embody ourselves in this moment and also how to live in freedom. Luiza’s focus on generosity and care are really rare things to confront in art.
Once this week is over, that will be 20 years of Zona Maco. What’s on the horizon for Zona Maco’s next 20 years?
The role of artistic director for Zona Maco rotates, which I think contributes to enlarging the program and keeping it relevant. We have also all been from different backgrounds. I’m Cuban. Juan Canela, my predecessor, is Spanish and is the chief curator of MAC Panamá (Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Panamá). Before that was Daniel Garza-Usabiaga, [a former curator at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico City, and Pablo del Val, [who is also Spanish, has worked in both Spain and Mexico, and is now director of Art Dubai]. Each new director brings a new vision—that’s fundamental. Looking forward, I see us strengthening the position of the fair as a major player on the international art stage. Zona Maco is a place to see what is happening with Latin American art and to experience it within that context. It’s a totally different perspective. Let’s see how much I can do.
Zona Maco Prepares for Its 20th Anniversary Edition