Critics’ Picks

View of Michael Smith, “Imagine the View From Here!,” 2018–19.

View of Michael Smith, “Imagine the View From Here!,” 2018–19.

Mexico City

Michael Smith

Museo Jumex
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra 303 Colonia Granada
December 8, 2018–March 3, 2019

Named for its founder’s juice brand, Museo Jumex is utterly corporate, surrounded by commercial towers, malls, and billionaire Carlos Slim’s museum. This makes it the perfect backdrop for the latest in Michael Smith’s twenty-five-year-old International Trade and Enrichment Association (ITEA) project.

Outside, a billboard reads “Available Soon! Jumex Terrace,” while inside the spacious, windowed terrace gallery, ITEA offers marketing pamphlets and videos arranged in trade-show-style booths. With wit that advances critique-of the art world’s relationship to development, of middle-class aging-Smith’s everyman alter ego, Mike, says that the organization exists to “provide members an important introduction to a prestigious network of internationally recognized artists and institutions.” From older material we learn that ITEA “facilitated” Smith’s contribution to Hans Ulrich Obrist’s global Do It project, a video titled How to Curate Your Own Group Exhibition, 1996: Wearing a suit, Mike deadpans to the camera, “As the information superhighway continues to expand, artists will hardly have time to sleep as they become the content providers of the future.”

New material suggests that ITEA has pivoted, now targeting a wider audience. The centerpiece video shows Mike wandering into an ITEA sales pitch, buying the promise of “elevation through association,” and soon splitting his time between San Miguel de Allende (expat condo, painting classes) and a “fully curated time-share” in Mexico City. We see Mike waking up, drinking coffee, surveying his surroundings, and being led by a scarf-wearing cultural worker (Jumex curator Kit Hammonds) through so-called creative experiences, including art appreciation and contemporary dance (featuring Xavier Le Roy performances). In an uncanny, signature Smith twist, it turns out that the time-share occurs in the show’s gallery. Has ITEA provided “elevation through association” with art, as its graphs and taglines promise? If Mike’s bemused demeanor is any indication, this highway may lead nowhere.