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23 April 2013
Writing about Zona Maco

The tenth edition of Zona Maco, the contemporary art fair in Mexico, closed its doors last 14 April after five days of intense activity, that transcended the fair enclosure, spreading out across the Federal District in the form of new initiatives and projects, in museums, galleries and independent spaces. Maite Garbayo brought together Guillermo Santamarina, independent curator, artist and director of MUCA Rome; Paola Santoscoy, curator and current director of the Experimental Museum, the Eco in Mexico city; Daniel Montero, art critic and director of the Campus Expandido (MUAC) and Jorge Satorre, artist, to gather their opinions about the fair. This is what they have to say.

On the whole, writing about a fair doesn’t end up being that exciting. That is unless a profound critical analysis is undertaken of the social, political and economic peculiarities of the context in which it takes place and, above all, its impact on the local and international artistic framework.

Zona Maco is, a priori, just one more fair; an aprioristic renunciation, on entering the door, of any form of aesthetic “pleasure”. If every now and again exhibitions open to which a visit is truly pleasurable –aesthetically and critically speaking-, the fair model is an art hypermarket-once again aesthetically speaking- in which some interesting (always decontextualized) proposals intermingle with a whole series of objects that lead one to think seriously once more about the overproduction that is undoubtedly hitting us, and obviously goes hand in had with a growing lack of ideology in their formal propositions. What predominates is the accumulation of sellable objects: a lot of painted matter, saturation of the stands and a certain touch of the non-critical baroque.

They say that Mexico is a buoyant market and the galleries on the whole seemed satisfied with their participation in the fair, including the 14 Spanish galleries that this year had stands at Zona Maco. It is an increasingly internationalised market, as shown by the fact that in the present edition only 35% of the galleries were Mexican. Aside from the commercial aspect that I won’t go into for a lack of knowledge and certain lack of interest, Zona Maco is remarkable because, as occurs with ARCO in Madrid, it temporarily and geographically centralises a large part of the events and contemporary art proposals in Mexico.

The fair is ultimately an important event for many of the art agents in Mexico: it injects energy; facilitates encounters between people, with local and foreign proposals; parallel events are organised, some of which are really interesting…But at the same time, and after more than a decade in action, despite the fact that it has stimulated the appearance of certain initiatives, as Guillermo Santamarina points out, it seems as if they don’t ever become fully established.

For Paola Santoscoy there’s a need to raise the question of the pertinence in Mexico of another type of international event that wasn’t solely commercial, such as for an example a Biennial. She considers that Zona Maco propitiates a necessary space for dialogue and encounters, and values positively the fact that the curatorial figure has gained in importance with sections like Zona Maco Sur or Nuevas Propuestas, that raise the level of the whole fair and what is presented there.

Daniel Montero is very clear about the fact that Zona Maco ends up making up for the lack of an agglutinating event capable of generating and activating national and international relations. This also leads to what takes place around the fair acquiring even greater relevance and how the time and space of the subjects and institutions should be placed at the service of Maco.

Their opinions in general coincide in indicating the need for thinking of alternatives that propitiate encounters and debates from other places. SITAC (Simposio Internacional de Teoría sobre Arte Contemporáneo) already exists, the XI edition of which will take place in September, but an International Biennial is something that has been planned and, in the opinion of Guillermo Santamarina, ought to stem from a process of analysis that blocks any possibility of it ending up serving private interests or the speculations of the reigning political party.

For Jorge Satorre it is absurd to pretend that the celebration of an art fair can offer content, though it is obvious that some interesting works are shown and that the institutions of the city cause their inaugurations to coincide with the dates of the fair in order to obtain a certain international visibility. According to him, there exists the risk that all this effort ends up being obliterated or gobbled up by the surplus of events such as breakfasts, openings or various parties, in which the music, as Santamarina quite rightly pointed out, left a lot to be desired.

This is ultimately what seems to prevail during these days of the fair. Perhaps, the free drinks and touch of banality help to facilitate the commercial transactions, that are, it’s worth not forgetting, the raison d’être of any fair.

Maite Garbayo is a writer and researcher. Art history, feminist crticial theory and pyschoanalysis are a few of the tools of her trade. She combines her research and writing with periods of teaching. Currently, she is working on her doctoral thesis and is the editor of the magazine {Pipa}.

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