Reflecting on the crowd-pleasing curiosities of Zona Maco 2023

Dazzled in CDMX

After an Omicron-quieted 2022 iteration, Zona Maco, Latin America’s largest art and design fair, returned at full strength. It opened to a Mexico City now reckoning with a rapid gentrification associated with the kind of expat communities art fairs foster. Zona Maco didn’t—or perhaps couldn’t—offer much help in that reckoning. Nor could the concurrent, more adventurous fairs like Material, which focused on emerging artists, or the high-spirited, high-concept Salón Acme, which filled Manuel Gorozpe’s 1906 Proyecto Público Prim mansion with crowd-pleasing curiosities. Still, Zona Maco justified its centrality to Mexico City Art Week with more than 200 galleries from dozens of countries, including some heavy hitters and an especially strong roster of up-and-coming designers.

Vibración y Color by Jesús Rafael Soto (Courtesy Zona Maco)

Mexico City’s Galería RGR filled a large booth with Fernanda Fragateiro’s intriguing book-based sculptures, both witty and weird, and the downright magical kinetic work of Jesús Rafael Soto. But its highlight may well have been a small sculpture by Diego Pérez that wrenched references to ruin porn, Escher, and pre-Hispanic architecture from a discrete cube of marble. Fresh from curating the gallery and public spaces at the lively new Andaz Condesa, Hilario Galguera showed some rugged assemblages by Enrique Jezik among the slicker Bosco Soldi and Marc Quinn sculptures. The bulbous geometry of Manuel Felguérez’s lacquered metal sculptures looked great in Proyectos Monclova/Simões De Assis’ blue gallery, while at Galería Eherhardt Flórez, June Crespo’s untitled, wall-mounted sculpture seemed to push off a beam and hover, terrifyingly, beckoning viewers with a bloated trunk, sharp claw, and regal green drapery.

Thanks in large part to artistic director Cecilia León de la Barra, this year’s Zona Maco made a vibrant argument for the fair as a design destination. Its Emergente section focused on young and mid-career makers and ended up stealing the show. Paola Valle’s “Hive” cubes mixed travertine and resin in playful perforation, while Antonio Gómez Hernández whipped up a pouf that paid a tasty tribute to pan dulce. Both Pseudónimo and Sama showed room dividers that played on transparency in unexpected ways, the former with caning and the latter with rope. And the lighting selection—particularly a groovy triptych sconce by Andrea Ramos Gándara and table lamps by Gabriela Saadia made from pillows of stone—was full of bright ideas.

An artisanal rug by José María Balmaceda (Courtesy Zona Maco)

A volcanic stone stool by Carsten Lemme at Ángulo Cero (Courtesy Zona Maco)

More established designers made impressions, as well. José María Balmaceda’s new productions of furnishings by Mexican architects are bound to make waves, while no seat in the house looked better than the Oak Roots stool by Ad Hoc at Ángulo Cero, its back boasting a bracelet of ixtle which looked at once bristly and as airy as tulle. Charabati Bizzarri worked similar wonders with ceramic, gathering thousands of handmade rings into wall installations and sconce diffusers which hang like textiles but hold their own unique weight. They can also be seen at Four Seasons locations around the world.

A few pieces in the antiques section of the fair astonished. Whether or not it truly belonged in a CDMX convention center or not, the 8-by-16-foot Indonesian set of sliding doors, highly decorated in interwoven florals, stopped traffic at Rodrigo Rivero-Lake. Muzeion displayed a Sihuas mantle (circa 500 BC); its brown, blue, and cream threads form dizzying steps the gallery posits could represent a snake-protected pyramid or a shaman praying for rain. Not far away, amid the thrum of the crowded Centro Citibanamex venue, Zilberman Gallery offered a moment of perhaps similar transcendence: Rows of church pews the artist Guido Casaretto found in Istanbul, cast copies with wood chips, and then destroyed. What remains, then, are rows of the supposedly historic seating and also a kind of occult glamour, a reminder of what the many thousands in attendance might be longing for when all the deals are done.