The most powerful fair in Latin America starts on Wednesday. Zona Maco will return to focus in Mexico City the attention of the contemporary art world for at least this week. EL PAÍS brings together three Mexican figures of the sector to talk about the current moment that crosses the scene. José Kuri, owner of the flagship gallery of Mexico, Kurimanzutto; Pía Camil, artist with recent work in the Latin American edition of Art Basel, and Eugenia Braniff, director of Stay Femsa, the exhibition arm of one of the largest collectors in the country. From their different positions, they talk about the role of the fairs, the relationship with other American markets, the past and the future of the art sector in their country.
The Mexican scene has grown during the last years until consolidating itself as the maximum Latin American referent and gateway to the USA. "In the last four five years we have seen a boom of the market with a lot more people interested in collecting, in comparing art and, above all, in doing it in a more organized, more focused way, "says Kuri. Despite the economic slackness that Mexico has experienced during this period of explosion, the concentration of great fortunes in the country has favored the investment impulse.
Up to eight Mexican businessmen entered last year in the prestigious list of 200 most important collectors in the world according to the magazine ArtNews "In this time we have detected much more interest of the corporate in working and getting involved in the collection. There is more and more awareness, "says Braniff on the evolution of the Femsa Collection, born in 1977 and with a collection of more than 1000 works.
Kurimanzutto opened his gallery 20 years ago, "in a much smaller and isolated context", sponsored by the most sought-after Mexican living artist in the world: Gabriel Orozco. Camil (Mexico City, 1980) points to generations prior to his own, names like Miguel Calderón or Daniel Guzmán, "people who have helped open up the international market together with galleries like Kurimanzutto, giving way to younger generations and generating spaces and interest in the Mexican market. There has been an advance towards a more diversified and varied market. "
Despite growth, Mexico is still far from the volume and maturity of the US market. "In the US there must be 60 museums with serious programs and collecting with a goal. In Mexico there are three or four, "says Kuri. In any case, the Mexican institutional muscle makes the difference with the rest of Latin America: "We have - adds the gallerist - a much stronger infrastructure. A network of museums that work in a very linked to what is happening. Maco works and generates a lot around him. Brazil, for example, is very strong, but institutions are weaker. Argentina has some interesting museums and galleries, but infrastructure is the origin and the basis of everything. "
The return of painting
The evolution towards these turbulent times has also had its impact on the subject of Mexican art. "Art reflects what we are going through and museums and collections are also turning to issues such as migration, gender, violence, political polarization, classism," says Braniff. For Kuri, "The themes have always been on the table, maybe the modulation changes." The fundamental difference would be for the gallery owner the lack of harmony with the market: "I think they have always been very close. But now the market has become very conservative. The prices of painting, of commodifiable objects are stratospheric, moving away from the social experiment that art can be. "
Camil agrees that "the excessive amount of painting, sculpture and more concrete art that is moving in the market is remarkable, especially in international fairs." The artist recognizes a relationship "half antagonistic with the fairs". Because "they are a reality and they give you the possibility to travel and locate yourself in more global contexts. They are necessary. It is a model that has worked very well for the art market. But at the same time, the agenda of the galleries concentrates too much around the fairs of each year. And in the same way, the artists have been forced to be producing almost to the clock of the fair ".
Life beyond Maco
For the artist, Maco, in particular, "is no longer the fair of 10 years ago, when you said that international art arrived in Mexico! The existence of Material - the alternative fair - I find interesting because of its capacity to question other economies and generate a market for other collectors of another economic profile ". With 180 galleries from 22 countries convened for its sixteenth edition, the owner of Kurimanzutto notes that "the fair gathered the strength that already existed thanks to the projects of many artists creating their own ways of exhibiting and talking. The fair gathers that energy and turns it into a market. It is positive that they are resources that return to the same system. But in the case of Mexico, I think that the panorama is not so anchored to the fair. Nor is it as extreme as New York, where there is no fair that works because the city has so much energy that they go unnoticed. "
The three, in any case, perceive a certain exhaustion of the traditional model of the art fair. And they underline as a valuable alternative Condo, a project of temporary exchanges between galleries that started in 2016 and to which cities such as London, New York, Shanghai and Mexico City have already joined.