What's good at Zona Maco this year? There's a lot to rummage through at this year's expanded edition of the Mexico City fair, which has amped up its design section and organized a robust selection of solo project booths by emerging galleries to go alongside the blue-chip fare from top local galleries and globe-bestriders like David Zwirner and Gagosian. Amid this scrum there are plenty of standouts—here are 10 of them.
Caged Stone With 14 Dots (1948)
Venus Over Manhattan (New York)
$1 million to $7 million range for all works
Adam Lindemann decided to do Zona Maco at the last minute this year, and when he spoke to the fair’s new director, Daniel Garza-Usabiaga, about what to bring, he was instructed to bring something Modern. “Well, the only Modern artist we work with, really, is Calder,” Lindemann said, so he flew over five exceptional sculptures (consigned from various friends of the gallery), plus two necklaces worn by his friendly female staff. This standing mobile from 1948 is probably the best of the bunch, a winsome, delicate piece from the period in which Calder was still incorporating stones from the farm around his Roxbury, Connecticut, studio. Spin it gently, and it’s almost as if an ancient cosmological tale were unfolding before your eyes.
Forced Transition (2016)
kurimanzutto (Mexico City)
Gabriel Sierra is known and widely admired for his sculptural interventions that play tricks on architecture and design, using simple but unexpected stratagems to destabilize or delight. At the Jumex Museum’s edition of the Guggenheim MAP’s “Under the Same Sun” show right now, he has a plain wooden contraption that you need to squeeze through to enter the show and a Eames Hang-It-All coatrack charmingly repurposed as a fruit-holder. At the fair, his entry is straightforward in concept but not in execution: an oblique doorway into the booth that forces visitors to slide through at an angle. It makes one conscious of moving through architecture, and transforms a banal gesture into an event.
Untitled (Rattan Chair Triptych) (1979)
Labor (Mexico City)
Now known primarily as the founder of the vanguard New York photography gallery Murray Guy, Janice Guy studied photography in Düssedorf in the 1970s and devised a candid, playful, and quite sexy breed of self-portraiture. She would typically position herself naked in front of a mirror and snap a picture with the camera foregrounded in front of her eye, presenting her body as a sensuous aesthetic subject while making it perfectly clear that she was in full control.
In this triptych, Guy added a further flirtatious note by hand-tinting accent points—her lips in one, her nipple in another, and her hair in the last—in the shade of a light Warholian pink. Nowadays, it seems, the artist is getting renewed attention (she had a solo show at Cleopatra’s last year) in part because of how her work prefigures our selfie culture. Whatever works.
Travel Drawings (2015)
Travesía Cuatro (Mexico City)
When Walead Beshty arrived to produce a show at Travesía Cuatro last year, one of his dealers there asked him if he wanted a studio. “No thanks,” he told the dealer. “I’ll just take your desk.” The artist encamped himself in the gallery, explaining that he wanted to watch everything that happened in the back office from day to day, and he began making a suite of drawings of intimate elements of the workplace, like the (exceptionally accommodating) dealer’s credit card and Celine handbag.
He then noticed a particularly sensationalistic local tabloid called Metro on the newsstands that used scantily clad women and bloody corpses as cover fodder, so he began buying a copy every day and asking the gallery staff to write stream-of-consciousness letters describing the magazine’s contents. The resulting combinations, each made in a single day over the course of six weeks, became the subject of this series of so-called Travel Drawings, which Beshty makes wherever he goes.
Migrant Reenactment (Skull) (2016)
Alfredo Ginocchio (Mexico City)
“My practice is about art and collaborations,” says Damian Ontiveros, a conceptualist who uses the medium of painting to engage with sensitive communities stricken with violence or political oppression. In his most recent series, the artist has been working as an art teacher at a halfway house in Monterrey devoted to sheltering migrants who come from Guatemala and Honduras, often with nothing but the clothes on their backs, with the intention of illegally crossing into the United States.
A usual stay is three nights, so over that brief time Ontiveros gave his itinerant students an ambitious assignment: to paint a faithful copy of Basquiat’s 1981 Untitled (Skull), now a centerpiece of the Broad Collection. To help them, he broke the painting down into several sections of five layers of color each and projected them onto the canvas, coaching the migrants to paint over the lines and encouraging them to intuitively fill in the gaps, with feeling.
Why Basquiat? Because that artist “embodies a history of transculturalization,” says Ontiveros, because of his immigrant parents and his continual rise across social and economic classes. (The Skull painting had also been exhibited in Monterrey’s MARCO museum in 1990.) The activity was about empowering the migrants through art, he explains. Now their names are written on the back of the canvas; Ontiveros has no idea what happened to them after they left.
Income’s Outcome (2015)
NF Galería (Madrid)
From $150 on up
The artist Danica Phelps elevates personal accounting to an art, literally. In this series of drawings, she has chronicled every sum of money that has come in from her art career and then, in each individual drawing, how she spent it—on gas for the car, contractor bills, a charitable donation, herbs, Ikea furniture for staging her apartment, etc. Each one of these drawings notes the exact amount spent, subtracting it from the earned sum and noting each dollar with a red slash at the bottom of the composition.
She then prices these drawings based on how successfully she thinks it turned out (the gas drawing got low marks, for instance, at $150), which then offers collectors who differ of opinion the chance to get a good deal. (The gas drawing is pretty nice!) Finally, after a drawing is purchased, she makes a “second generation” copy of the sold original, noting the name of the buyer and the sum, rendered in green slashes. I’d love to see her tax filing.
SANTIAGO SIERRA & YOSHUA OKÓN
El Excusado (2016)
Parque Galería (Mexico City)
From tattooing heroin-addicted prostitutes in exchange for the price of a hit to filming marathons of choreographed group sex, the Mexico City-based Santiago Sierra has done some seriously extreme stuff in his work. At the fair, he has teamed up with the video artist Yoshua Okón for a bit of light japery—he’s hired Mexican albaniles, or construction workers, to install a toilet in Parque Galería’s booth that is shaped like the Museo Soumaya, the frequently derided private museum built by Mexican uber-billionaire Carlos Slim to house his iffy collection. The workers were timed to finish at the end of the vernissage, and the future of the work is unclear. Alas, they might need a Carlos Slim to pay $50,000 for a work like this, but he’s probably not interested.
Tilton Gallery (New York)
Innovation is key to art, and young artists, especially, can’t resist trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to painting. For Luca Dellaverson, that wheel seems to be the mirrored canvas, a trope perfected some time back by Jacob Kassay. This 29-year-old artist, however, sets out to break his mirrors, starting with a reflective glass pane and pouring hot resin on top until the heat and weight of the goo cracks the surface into jagged lines. Having now received several solo shows at the veteran Tilton Gallery, he has become impressively versatile with this process; while a set of colored versions can be found elsewhere at the fair at Luxembourg’s Zidoun-Bossuyt Gallery, this monochrome stands as an early achievement. Brought to Tilton’s attention by his fellow artist and now stablemate Egan Frantz, who first exhibited his mirror art at the gallery during a barbecue afterparty, Dellaverson has a solo show coming up at Paris’s Galerie Nathalie Obadia this year. Institutions are “the next step,” says Connie Tilton.
MIGUEL FERNÁNDEZ DE CASTRO
Galería Emma Molina (Monterray)
$1,500 for the photos, $18,000 for the installation
Of course someone had to tackle El Chapo at the fair, and Miguel Fernández de Castro did so in an impressively clever way. At the center of his solo booth is a specimen table, as in a science museum, devoted to “narcology”: the invented study of how the drug-trafficking industry affects the earth and leaves remnants of its operations. The installation includes rock samples taken from tunnels, charts showing the effects of erosion, coded tweets from drug kingpins, and other artifacts; along the walls are photos of a square hatch into the desert floor, slightly ajar, referencing both the underground passageways that El Chapo and other traffickers excavated to cross the borders and Robert Smithson’s Mirror Displacement series. According to de Castro's dealer, a message is embedded in this work: the drug trade is tremendously damaging but has become a necessary part of the ecology (and economy), and eradicating it would cause chaos.
Spongebob paintings, 2016
Murias | Centeno (Lisbon)
Art fairs are a nice opportunity to check in on the latest developments of market darlings, and to see them testing out new directions. The Welsh artist Dan Rees became famous for his Artex paintings, gorgeous abstractions made from colored commercial plaster. At the fair, however, he had a series of canvases imprinted with images of SpongeBob Squarepants alongside the leaves of Matisse’s beloved monstera deliciosa plant, with the whole composition covered with gravel reminiscent of the sort you find at the bottom of a fish tank. Each painting is named after a different “Spongebob” episode, and his dealer described the work as “very anti-capitalist,” grabbing onto the cartoon sponge as a typical proletarian worker (he labors over the grill at the Krusty Krab under the exploitative owner Eugene H. Krabs), and “reflective of the market.”