Mexico’s capital has emerged as a serious cultural contender. It is home to some of the past decade’s most-lauded international artists — including Daniel Guzmán, Gabriel Orozco, and Damián Ortega — as well as a burgeoning crop of architecturally radical structures, innovative museums, and ambitious restaurants. Headlining the cultural offerings this month is the seventh edition of the annual Zona Maco contemporary-art show, which seeks to tempt a newly confident group of buyers in the Distrito Federal.
WHAT: Mexico City’s premier contemporary-art fair, featuring more than 80 international galleries.
WHEN: April 14-18
WHERE: The Centro Banamex convention center
HIGHLIGHTS: Last year Zona Maco opened "right as swine flu was beginning to break out," recalls gallerist Carolyn Alexander, of New York’s Alexander and Bonin. "Not an ideal time to have an art fair or enjoy the city." With the worst of the health and economic crises over, "people are less nervous," says Mexico City dealer Enrique Guerrero. "The Mexican market has picked up since the second half of last year. Life goes on." The fair’s special Sur ("south") section, a big draw last year, will again be organized by the São Paolo-based independent curator Adriano Pedrosa. Among the 20 solo shows planned for Sur 2010 is one about currency devaluation from Máximo González, who is represented by Madrid’s Travesia Cuatro, and another from Caracas gallery Oficina #1 featuring work by Luis Romero.
HOTEL DISTRITO CAPITAL
Opened just last year in the otherwise business-minded Santa Fe district, the Hotel Distrito Capital is managed by the team behind the chic Condesa DF hotel in central Mexico City. Although the Condesa has devoted fans in Javier Aparicio, of Madrid’s Travesia Cuatro gallery, and (it is said) Damien Hirst, its younger sister, with 30 beautifully designed rooms (13 of them unique suites) and a fifth-floor bar and restaurant featuring fare by the rising culinary star Enrique Olvera, seems likely to rival the older property and its renowned rooftop club as both a home base and an après-fair destination.
37 JUAN SALVADOR AGRAZ
CAMINO REAL POLANCO
"People can party at the trendy hotels all they want," says gallerist Alexander, "but I adore the Camino Real, with its amazing outdoor pool," in the ritzy Polanco district. A mural by the Mexican painter Rufino Tamayo, namesake of one of the city’s leading contemporary-art centers, lends the property considerable culture cred.
700 MARIANO ESCOBEDO
Occupying a former mansion, this hotel is one of the many secret treasures of the Zona Rosa’s northern section, a quiet counterpoint to the neighborhood’s bustling areas bordering the Paseo de la Reforma. In addition to a large garden courtyard, it offers inexpensive, spacious rooms decorated with smoky portraits of the owner’s ancestors that could have been painted by the aging Francis Picabia.
69 RIO SENA
Local dealer Guerrero declares Pujol, where Enrique Olvera secured his reputation as one of the city’s most exciting chefs, the "best nouvelle-Mexican restaurant in town." Olvera complements his inventive take on traditional cuisine with a formidable selection of mescal, beers, and Mexican wines. Order the six-course tasting menu, or sample such popular selections as the slow-cooked beef ribs and the hearty red snapper. And for dessert, try the delicate crème brûlée.
254 FRANCISCO PETRARCA
This year marks the 40th anniversary of this redoubtable culinary outpost in the city’s gritty Observatorio district. Specializing in the traditional cuisine of the state of Puebla — located just east of Mexico City — the restaurant offers enigmatic moles that rival its fruit-filled stews in richness. But the menu’s most memorable dish is one of its lightest: bright, flaky chapilines — tiny insects — fried to a smoky crispness. House-bottled tequila provides a hearty accompaniment (or antidote) to the feast.
80 VICTORIANO ZEPEDA
Gallerist Aparicio raves about the fish at this favorite art world lunch spot. Dealers and jet-setting art consultants come here for the flaky tuna and mahimahi, as well as the fresh salads — not usually a strong point of Mexican cooking. One particular standout is a fluffy bed of greens covered with avocado and shrimp, which pairs well with a glass of Michelada, beer flavored with tomato and lime juice, hot sauce, and pepper.
This branch of the city’s three-restaurant power-breakfast empire, just a short walk from the fair, offers frothy hot chocolate, pastries, and expertly prepared egg dishes served with creamy refried beans, including the exotic omelet with escamoles ("ant larvae").
215 AVENIDA DE LAS PALMAS
52-55-2623-0402 ext. 03
This is one of the "most famous bars" in the "alternative" Condesa neighborhood, according to Mauricio Galguera, whose Galería Hilario Galguera, in the more residential San Rafael district, will be hosting new Damien Hirst paintings in a show titled "Dark Trees," starting April 15. Don’t be surprised if the opening party spills into the Condesa.
163 NUEVO LEON
MUSEO UNIVERSITARIO ARTE CONTEMPORANEO (MUAC)
Over just two weeks following its November 2008 opening, 30,000 people visited this contemporary-art museum, designed by the Mexican architect Teodoro González de León. "The building is incredible," says dealer Alexander. Guerrero praises the displays: "Collectors absolutely must go see the collection there." Located far south of the fair, on the campus of the University of Mexico, the muac is well worth a brief day trip to see.
JOSE VASCONCELOS LIBRARY
Architect Alberto Kalach eschewed most elements of typical library architecture in creating this design. The towering stacks hold 500,000 volumes on floating platforms that are visible from the lobby. The most notable feature, though, may be the entry hall’s hanging centerpiece: Gabriel Orozcos 2006 Mobile Matrix, a hulking whale skeleton that had a star turn in the artist’s recent MoMA retrospective.
EJE 1 NORTE ESQ. ALDAMA
Traffic can be brutal on the way to Ecatepec, the industrial neighborhood where Eugenio López Alonsos 15,000-square-foot private museum is housed in a juice factory. Beginning April 18, however, weary travelers will be rewarded with an exhibition, organized by Zona Maco Sur curator Adriano Pedrosa, of items from López Alonso’s adventurous, 2,000-piece collection of contemporary art.
272 VIA MORELOS
CASA LUIS BARRAGAN
Architect Luis Barragáns small, carefully wrought Minimalist home, now a museum and a unesco World Heritage site, can be visited only by appointment. Although "it’s still a well-kept secret," Alexander says, she advises that you book well in advance.
14 GENERAL FRANCISCO RAMIREZ
RIO DE JANEIRO PLAZA
Mexico City has more scenic parks than this one — the sprawling, verdant Parque Mexico just a few blocks from here, for instance, where some of author Roberto Bolaños colorful characters roam — but none as tranquil. Or peculiar, for that matter, considering the bronze replica of Michelangelo’s David gracing the central fountain. Surrounded by groves of trees and such galleries as the impressive OMR (54 Plaza Rio de Janeiro; 52-55-5511-1179; galeriaomr.com) — an elegant two-story town house displaying works by Lozano-Hemmer and Candida Höfer — the plaza is a restful spot to stop during a day of flânerie.
ORIZABA AND DURANGO STREETS, COLONIA ROMA
CHIC BY ACCIDENT
This renowned design showroom has moved to a new space, but its selection remains unsurpassed. Immaculate 1970s sloping chairs by Luis Barragán are obvious souvenirs for those who have visited the architect’s house, but founder Emmanuel Picault is known for surprises. Among recent ones: a circa 1900 seat from the Philippines with brown-speckled white leather and wooden boxes carved by Don Shoemaker in the 1960s into haunting figures of owls.
49 ALVARO OBREGON
PLAZA DEL ANGEL
The city’s largest antiques market fills with dealers, licensed and unlicensed, on weekend afternoons. Sharp-eyed shoppers can uncover prize finds — or be taken for a ride: There’ve been recent reports of proprietors peddling ersatz Frida Kahlos.
CALLE HAMBURGO AND AMBERES
This sleek emporium features pieces by some of the hot young designers who have flocked to Mexico City, including Hector Esrawes undulating Centipede bench, which has more than two dozen legs, some of which don’t touch the ground, and Emiliano Godoys flexible Knit chair, stitched together out of plywood, cotton, and rope.
481 AVENUE VAZQUEZ DE MELLA
For more destinations, go to artinfo.com/cultureandtravel
"When in Mexico City for … Zona Maco" originally appeared in the April 2010 issue of Modern Painters. For a complete list of articles from this issue available on ARTINFO, see Modern Painters' April 2010 Table of Contents.