Cultural City Guide: Mexico City Expands Its Artistic Reach
While the pandemic has forced many art spaces to adapt or, sadly for some, to close, Mexico City’s creative scene has continued to thrive. Faced with waves of limited visitor capacities and shortened opening hours amid new security regulations and budget cuts at publicly funded Mexican institutions, gallery owners, curators, directors and programmers have responded. with resilience by embarking on new collaborations and opening new places.
After the disappearance of Parque Galería, its former director Mauricio Cadena inaugurated Llano last November at La Laguna, a converted textile factory in the Colonia Doctores district which is home to many other creative projects. Galeria Mascota has partnered with Anuar Maauad to open a second location on the site of the former artist residency program Casa Maauad in Colonia San Rafael. In an Art Deco building in Roma Sur, Fátima González and Alejandro Jassan founded the Campeche art gallery and in Juárez, Mau Galguera and María García Sainz opened Pequod Co.
The past year has also widened the attention of the Mexican art world beyond its capital. For the most recent iteration of Zona Maco, the largest platform for art fairs in Latin America, organizers have decentralized the fair from its usual home to the Centro Citibanamex convention center. Instead, they invited Mexico City-based galleries to host other Mexican galleries from across the country. The approach highlighted the existing dialogues taking place in the 32 states of Mexico. Material, an art fair that often features new contemporary voices with a strong performance and editing component, has postponed its 2020 fair to Mexico City and will debut a new model this fall. Kicking off its inaugural edition on October 28 at Cerámica Suro de Guadalajara, the annual traveling fair Estación Material will take place in a different Mexican city in each iteration, showcasing a selection of galleries and guest projects based in Mexico. For those planning to visit, these stops are a must.
Where to stay
Ignacia guest house
Located in a quiet, tree-lined street in Colonia Roma Norte, the Ignacia Guest House was built in 1913 and features five suites in different colors: blue, pink, green, yellow and an all-black master suite. Architecturally, the building combines restored traditional architecture, preserved ceilings and floors and a new modernist extension. Guests can enjoy the citrus garden and dine in the restaurant. Her name is a tribute to the housekeeper for the private casona (estate) for over seventy years, and dedications can be found in printed portraits of her in several alcoves.
With curved shapes, sloping hallways, uneven floors, and vibrant colors, Quetzalcoatl Nest is the surreal realization of the organic designs of Mexican architect Javier Senosiain, offered as an Airbnb guesthouse. Inspired by an Aztec serpent god, the serpent-shaped structure can accommodate ten people inside its “belly” apartments. With a design and colors taken directly from the surrounding topography, the property also has a large garden, natural caves and a lake.
What to see
Founded in 2013 by Eugenio López Alonso, heir to the Grupo Jumex fruit juice empire, the Museo Jumex is home to the private art collection it began to build in the 1990s and is considered the largest of Latin America. It includes conceptual art from the 1960s, as well as significant works by Mexican and international artists of the López generation. The museum is the first building in Latin America designed by British architect Sir David Chipperfield, located just north of upscale Colonia Polanco and next door to Carlos Slim’s Museo Soumaya. Until September 30, visitors are greeted in the square by the monumental sculpture 2020 by Gonzalo Lebrija Breve historia del tiempo (A brief history of time) in which a car is suspended on its nose, apparently defying gravity. This fall, the museum opens two related exhibitions on October 7: a solo presentation by Mexican artist Sofía Táboas and a collector’s exhibition of which she will curate.
The eruption of the Xitle volcano some 1,600 years ago shaped the harsh and rocky landscapes of the Colonias of Coyoacán and Jardines del Pedregal and subsequently inspired a generation of artists and architects of the 20th century. Built between 1947 and 1950, Casa Pedregal (formerly known as Casa Prieto López) is the largest private residence designed by famous modernist Luis Barragán. Purchased in 2013 with the proceeds from the sale of his contemporary art collection, César Cervantes hired Jorge Covarrubias to lead a restoration effort that spanned 20 months and drew on the work of hundreds of experts. While Casa Pedregal is Cervantes’ primary residence, the house is open to guided tours where visitors can learn about its history and experience Barragán’s keen understanding of light and colors firsthand through its pink facade. , its pastel-colored interiors and perforated doors that stain the rays of the sun.
While Diego Rivera is widely celebrated for his work as a muralist and painter, he was also an avid collector of pre-Hispanic art. Completed after Rivera’s death by architects Juan O’Gorman, Heriberto Pagelson and Rivera’s daughter, Ruth Rivera Marín, the Anahuacalli Museum houses 2,000 of this collection of 45,000 works. With Rivera’s design direction recognizing the culture of Teotihuacan, the Anahuacalli is a pyramid of black volcanic stone, which incorporates architectural symbolism to serve as a “sacred receptacle” with a connection to the underworld. Under the current curatorship of Karla Niño, Anahuacalli’s exhibition follows Rivera’s dedication to connecting ancient cultures with evolving contemporary practices to create what he called a “Ciudad de las Artes»(City of Arts). Alongside the permanent collection are works by Rivera and a program of temporary commissions from an international roster of artists, such as Sarah Lucas.
Where to eat
Located in a lively street in Colonia Roma Norte, Expendio de Maíz is entirely made up of kitchen. While there are rows of comfortable benches outside for diners, the entire interior is dedicated to the masa. The design of the tortilleria by Ludwig Godefroy Architecture recalls pre-Hispanic architecture, with references to the Guachimontones pyramids of Teuchitlan as well as the ancient baths of Nezahualcoyotl in Texcoco. Composed largely of volcanic stone, the architecture blends perfectly with the black stone metals that are used to grind corn for masa. While most Mexico City tortillas are made from industrial corn flour, Jesús Salas Tornés, chef and owner of Expendio de Maíz, insists on nixtamalization on the spot. This traditional masa is the heart of the restaurant where there is no fixed menu; the only daily guarantee is that every dish will contain it in one form or another. Customers also don’t order food, although they can advise staff if they are vegetarians. Instead, the kitchen pulls out small, individual plates until diners say stop. In this beautifully delicious and surprising format, dishes included a pork confit taco with salsa verde, papaya and purslane; a suadero gordita bathed in adobo; and an eggplant dip with portobello and turnip greens on a tortilla.
Maximo Bistrot was founded in 2014 by Eduardo and Gabriela García as a platform to experiment with a range of cooking techniques using local ingredients. Among other positions, Eduardo cooked at Chef Enrique Olvera’s Pujol, a gastronomic establishment which, for a few years, has been ranked internationally as the best restaurant in town. Over the past seven years, Maximo Bistrot has built up a local following and been recognized as one of Latin America’s ’50 Best Restaurants’ and recently moved into a new home in Colonia Roma Norte with an open plan flooded with light. Changed daily, the menu offers quality with a more relaxed approach and setting. Recent dishes include yellowfin tuna sashimi; chicatana (ant) guacachile with mashed avocado, soy and ginger vinaigrette; Double bass “Zarandeado”; and “Mexicana” scallop ceviche.
What to explore: Oaxaca city
Just over an hour’s flight from Mexico City is Oaxaca City, a place renowned for its food, textiles, and ceramics. MASA, a nomadic design gallery whose projects blur the lines between art and collectible design have built an audience for their series of annual exhibitions in architecturally unique homes in Mexico City. Founded by Héctor Esrawe, Age Salajõe and Brian Thoreen, as well as Isaac Bissu and Roberto Diaz in 2019, the creative space is launching a program this fall in the city of Oaxaca which will run from October 21 to December 15. Local curators are organizing a gallery week to coincide with this. Hosted by Mexico City-based writer Su Wu, “Elementos Vitales: Ana Mendieta in Oaxaca” honors the work of late Cuban artist Ana Mendieta, marking the first time that five of her famous cinematographic works will be shown in the State of ‘Oaxaca where they were made, including the first in her “Silueta” series, filmed at the Yagul archaeological site in 1974. Throughout the 1970s, Mendieta made several trips to Mexico to perform a practice she called “voluntary immersion” in which she buried her body in natural waters and earth. While the landscape covered Mendieta’s imprint over time, the films provide documentation of this intimate trace. To accompany the screenings, Wu invited five contemporary artists and designers – Pia Camil, Frida Escobedo, EWE, Adeline de Monseignat and Solange Pessoa – to react to Mendieta’s films and create site-specific seats for viewing. In many cases, the movable objects incorporate materials from the same regions that appear in the films and can physically connect viewers to the earthly objects Mendieta sculpted against her body.
HacerNoche operates as many things but, above all, it is an exhibition platform designed by three friends, Francisco Berzunza, Paola Plaza and Darío Yazbek, in 2017. Not formally a biennial, but certainly on the scale of a , its next iteration hires curator Elvira Dyangani Ose (recently appointed next director of MACBA Barcelona) to oversee it. “HacerNoche: Promised Land” will open its doors to the public in spring 2022 in sixteen locations and will include two major group exhibitions at the Oaxacan Cultures Museum and the Centro de las Artes San Agustín. The series of exhibitions explores the performativity of the fable, proposed around what the scholar Donna Haraway calls “speculative fabrications”, and what curator Elvira Dyangani Ose explains “are based on the need to generate interpretations, or fables which offer perspectives of the possible ”.
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