Twilight Zona

Left: Dealer Monica Manzutto. (Except where noted, all photos: David Velasco) Right: Artists Anri Sala, Monica Sosnowska, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Gabriel Orozco, and Jimmie Durham. (Photo: Euridice Arratia)

“THE WORLD’S GOTTEN SMALLER,” a dealer tells us in the car to Polanco from Mexico City International Airport. “Everywhere is important. You can’t overlook anyplace. No matter how provincial.”

“Excuse me,” a writer pipes up. “Mexico City is not provincial. Los Angeles is provincial.”

“What’s wrong with provincial?” asks a second dealer from the backseat.

“It’s what we moved to New York to get away from…”

If there ever were a center it lost its hold years ago. Many—more than one might expect—made the time to parachute into Mexico City the Tuesday before last from New York, Berlin, Milan, London, Tokyo—wherever—in search of… who knows? Money? A tan? The ostensible reason for all the traffic was Zona Maco, a respectable, mid-sized art fair that briefly transcended the old-fashioned point-of-purchase model to become pure, nearly dematerialized event. Art fair as occasion. Art fair as vacation. Art fair as vocation.

Left: Artist Gabriel de la Mora. Right: Artist Raphael Montañez Ortíz (on computer) with Labor owner Pamela Echeverria. (Photo: Kate Sutton)

That night there were gallery receptions around the Roma district, “Mexico’s Williamsburg,” someone pronounced. Julieta Aranda and Gabriel de la Mora at OMR; a revelatory show by artist Raphael Montañez Ortíz at Labor; a strong Damián Ortega exhibition at kurimanzutto’s flawless space. “I’m calling my architect right now,” a cheerful Perry Rubenstein announced as he walked in, reminding us of the new gallery he’s planning to open in LA this fall.

At Proyectos Monclova there were two shows: “What Happened to the Other Dollar?” curated by San Franciscans Chris Fitzpatrick and Post Brothers, and a solo show by Christian Jankowski based on an audition he held at the Vatican for an actor to play Jesus. The new Son of Man was floating around upstairs, making liturgical gestures, drinking beer, and chatting up ladies, who swooned over his piercing blue eyes and hip, easy-breathing duds. “It’s like Pontius Pilate meets America’s Next Top Model,” crowed a proud Jankowski.

Ersatz Jesus was also mingling at the Covodonga later that evening, a cantina described to me by a recent New York transplant as “like Max’s Kansas City, DF style. Kinda.” We were warned that the bathrooms “get messy.” Well, so did the dance floor. Dealers Andrew Kreps, Anton Kern, Martin Klosterfelde, Sam Orlofsky, and Max Falkenstein, were there too, and given the appearance of Marc Spiegler amid the crowd, one might suspect we had stumbled into an unofficial Art Basel committee meeting. We left before everyone else did.

Left: Dealer Martin Klosterfelde (right). Right: The crowd at the Jumex party. (Photo: Slater Bradley)

The next afternoon was the opening of the fair at the Centro Banamex, an enormous, airport-like complex (365,000 square feet of exhibition space) that also includes a racetrack, a theme park, and what looked to be a large swimming hole. We walked past the car-parts convention in the neighboring hall, through the fair’s main doors, and beyond the MTV-sponsored greeter stand. Inside, the usual smart selection of galleries (Lisson, Hauser & Wirth, Massimo De Carlo, Honor Fraser, Galeria Vermelho of São Paulo, Bogota’s Casas Riegner) brought their usual salable wares. But it seemed that a significant number of dealers in town weren’t participating. “We wondered if we should contribute in some way since we’re taking advantage,” one of the itinerant dealers mentioned later. “But it’s a question of intelligence, isn’t it?”

“You should bomb the fair!” had been a sour DF-based artist’s advice before I left for Mexico. I wasn’t sure what that would accomplish, even for antagonists to the profit motive. These days the operative condition isn’t space, but scheduling. Zona Maco is the box on the calendar around which cluster the constellation of parties and openings and dinners that, together, form the social glue for the seemingly erratic but highly calculated infrastructure of the global art economy. “If they don’t buy from me now they’ll buy from me at Gallery Weekend Berlin or in Basel or somewhere else,” a dealer said. “Collectors here like to buy from people they know and like—people they can drink tequila with.”

Left: Artist Miguel Calderón. Right: Gaga Fine Arts owner Fernando Mesta.

The following afternoon, after a night of dancing with the Almodóvar-esque trannie Zemmoa at the Colección Jumex, we arrived at Contramar, a seafood restaurant in Roma next to the self-consciously winsome gallery Gaga Fine Arts. Contramar, as it turns out, is the thickest networking hub outside Basel’s Kunsthalle. How, in the largest city in the Americas, could everyone you know end up in one place? “Why is the whole art world here?” I asked Spiegler. “And what are you doing here?” “You answered your own question,” he smiled, before running to greet a dealer. In a back corner sat Monica Manzutto with Gabriel Orozco and Rirkrit Tiravanija. Amalia Dayan and Adam Lindemann floated by another table hosting art adviser Patricia Marshall. The frontiersmen of art and capital looked coifed and relaxed.

“Who needs a fair when you have Contramar and an iPad?” curator Benjamin Godsill asked. We’re all post-booth.

On Friday, after another dip in the deep end at Contramar, we made our way to the “dinner” (read: crudités and cocktails) celebrating the inauguration of the Museo Soumaya, the new vanity museum built by Carlos Slim, aka the richest man in the world. Plopped across from a Costco in Polanco, the Soumaya has been taking a bit of a bruising in the press (something, I gathered, about the flashy building, like a sequined nuclear power plant, designed by Slim’s son-in-law, Fernando Romero, and the collection of Dalí sculptures haphazardly arranged, horror vacui–style, on the top floor…). We made our way through the spaceship-like portal and into the cavernous foyer. Isaac Julien rested on the grand marble stairwell, near a bronze copy of Michelangelo’s Pietà. Hundreds of men in suits and women in shimmery dresses grabbed drinks and hovered around Rodin’s Thinker, the incongruous mascot for the evening.

Left: Jesus. Right: Inés López-Quesada, architect Fernando Romero, and Silvia Ortiz.

Then, literally, Gong! and a voice announcing over the loudspeakers that Michael Nyman was to play excerpts from his best-selling score for The Piano. And so he did, pleasantly enough. Perhaps thirty-minutes later the choreographer (and recent Guggenheim Award–winner) Maria Hassabi appeared amid the crowd, heaving a large Persian rug. She cleared some space and rolled it out and began holding strange sculptural positions both under and atop the carpet. Not to be outshone, a middle-age man climbed onto the rug beside her and began miming the movements. “Who is that jerk?” whispered my neighbor. (Miguel Soler-Roig Juncadella, president of Ars Fundum, it turned out.) Afterward, Hassabi was more generous. “That’s amazing! It’s what every artist dreams of. That would never happen in a theater.”

And then we were in another caravan rolling toward the afterparty at Romero’s studio. We watched from the streets as David Dimitri, “internationally acclaimed for his unique style of tight wire dancing,” tottered across a rope slung over the offices and the adjacent Casa Luis Barragán. Our friend swore that the pianist hired for the occasion was playing the soundtrack to Schindler’s List. Nyman claimed he’d never heard it, even though (because?) it won an Academy Award the same year he did The Piano. Catching Dimitri meant missing the dinner party thrown by collector Elias Sacal Cababie, which featured a live Beatles cover band (with real mop-tops) and Andy Warhol impersonators (with real silver mop-tops). Anyway, by then sense had canted precipitously toward nonsense, and our little group took off for tacos.

Left: Musician Michael Nyman. Right: Artist Isaac Julien.

Left: Yoshua Okón, artist and founder of the SOMA school. Right: MoMA associate curator Doryun Chong.

Left: Dealers Sam Orlofsky and Andrew Kreps with artist Todd Eberle. Right: Artist Julieta Aranda.

Left: Artist Pedro Reyes. Right: Choreographer Maria Hassabi.

Left: Artist Pia Camil. Right: Collector Vanesa Fernández and artist Aldo Chaparro (right). (Photo: Maureen Sullivan)

Left: Artist John Bock. Right: DJs and artists Kolkoz. (Photo: Maureen Sullivan)

Left: Dealer Honor Fraser (left). Right: Artist Nina Beier.

Left: A tequila cart at Zona Maco. Right: Lisson Gallery's Alex Logsdail.

Left: Curator Chris Fitzpatrick (left). Right: Dealer Nicolò Cardi.

Left: Dealer Akio Aoki. Right: Artist Slater Bradley (right).

Left: Zemmoa. Right: Curator Adam Kleinman.