Launched in 2002 and billed as “the largest art fair platform in Latin America,” Zona Maco is the undeniable mothership of Art Week Mexico City. Two decades into its tenure, it’s sparked spin-off fairs both locally and in other cities, including Guadalajara, essentially making February “art month” in Mexico. Bringing together more than 200 galleries — from blue-chip New Yorkers to lesser-known gems, not to mention entire sections dedicated to photography, design, and antiquities — Zona Maco is a feast for the senses and a truly international affair.
Beyond the dizzying amount of artwork on display, the crowd itself can be a sight to behold — painstakingly curated outfits, cocktail sipping, and selfie sticks abound. Determined to see it all, I combed the sprawling halls of Centro Banamex and came away with eight standout highlights of this year’s Zona Maco, which runs through Sunday, February 12.
Thandiwe Muriu at 193 Gallery (Paris)
Bold patterns mesh and mingle in the maximalist work of Thandie Muriu, a Kenyan photographer perhaps known best for her aptly titled CAMO collection. Taking shape in stylized images of African women modeling conceptual eyewear, architectural hairstyles and fashions cut from the same cloth as the bold backdrops they’re posed in front of, her signature series plays tricks on the eyes as her subjects appear to be emerging from — or disappearing into — vivid tableaus. Delivering one of the most immediately gratifying moments of Zona Maco Foto, 193 Gallery’s smartly painted showcase for Muriu highlights the artist’s masterful celebration of the power, beauty, and resilience of Black women.
Cisco Jiménez at YAM Gallery (San Miguel de Allende)
Boom boxes, turntables, volcanoes, and robots commingle in the covetable work of widely exhibited Mexican artist Cisco Jiménez. Whether working in painting, drawing, sculpture, collage, or installation, Jiménez owns a signature aesthetic that’s rooted in folk art and often enhanced with pointed use of text. Taking over an entire wall of YAM Gallery’s lively booth at Zona Maco, Jiménez’s paintings can be treated as eye candy or closely inspected for commentary rooted in pop culture and cultural identity. Taking these hallmarks a step further, Jiménez’s 2023 sculpture Robot Verde is a Frankensteined affair constructed from vintage toy parts and found objects, and accessorized with rosaries, chains, religious medals, and a juice bottle lid that reads “100% Jugo de Fruta.”
Xavier Schipani at Big Medium (Austin)
Born in Washington, D.C. and based in Austin, artist and trans activist Xavier Schipani explores gender identity and the human form in works he’s likened to “cave paintings.” Inspired by predecessors the artist considers his “transcestors,” Schipani’s paintings of intertwined bodies strike an intriguing balance between figuration and abstraction. Among the highlights of Austin-based gallery Big Medium’s Zona Maco booth, the multi-part 2022 painting Reflections of You, With Me, For Us is rendered in muted shades, but speaks loudly and even feels classical in nature — despite depictions of strap-on dildos.
Pascale Marthine Tayou at Galleria Continua (San Gimignano, Beijing, Les Moulins, Havana, Rome, São Paulo, Paris, Dubai)
Not bound by medium or thematic constructs, Cameroonian artist Pascale Marthine Tayou draws inspiration from travel and encounters with otherness. Characterized in his bio as “so spontaneous that it almost seems casual,” Tayou’s oeuvre encompasses anything from crystal totems donning statement spectacles and symbol-riddled murals to installations of rusted nails and whimsical interventions on the built environment. An eye-catching standout amid Galleria Continua’s feast of optical curiosities, Tayou’s swirling mixed-media work S/T exemplifies the artist’s fluid use of materials — in this case, hundreds of sticks of colored chalk.
Sofía Táboas at Kurimanzutto (Mexico City, New York)
Originally a nomadic concept launched in 1999 by art star Gabriel Orozco and gallerists José Kuri y Mónica Manzutto, Kurimanzutto is a Mexico City destination with a second outpost in Manhattan. In a nicely varied space showcasing works by Orozco, Minerva Cuevas, Haegue Yang, Damián Ortega and Bárbara Sánchez-Kane, Mexico City-based artist Sofía Táboas’ 2022 piece Delta stands out as a compelling study of geometry and color. Evoking cut-paper collage and even origami, the sculptural painting evidences the artist’s keen interest in mosaics and imaginative use of commonplace materials.
Merav Kamel & Halil Balabin at Braverman Gallery (Tel Aviv)
Collaborating as a duo since 2012, Israeli artists Merav Kamel and Halil Balabin work across a wide array of mediums, including painting, drawing sculpture, and installation. While they’re easily identifiable as human and animal forms, the pair’s curious soft sculptures exist in a decidedly surreal dimension. Nodding to folklore, mythology, rituals, and perversion, their tabletop arrangements are reminiscent of handcrafted dolls that never were. An anthropomorphic dog paints its Jesus-like master with disembodied arms, one hooded Druid-like figure rides another, and a bright-blue hybrid creature with six legs prepares to perform surgery on a human subject strapped to an operating table. Intricate and darkly cartoonish, the assembled cast of characters brings to mind sci-fi tropes and — as one viewer suggested — even the depraved horror of The Human Centipede.
Megan Dominescu at Anca Poterașu Gallery (Bucharest)
Presented as part of a feminist dialogue with a dramatic parachute installation by collaborators Anetta Mona Chișa and Lucia Tkáčová, emerging artist Megan Dominescu’s tactile works employ the unlikely medium of hooked rugs to great effect. Bright and fuzzy at first glance, her irreverent takes on the nostalgia-laden craft quickly reveal loaded imagery addressing everything from political turmoil to Christianity. Cops wearing tutus and ballet flats dance across a wall alongside a three-eyed K9 unit, a crying woman clutches her head in a fit of rage, and a doctor brandishing a shovel and a handful of pills grins under a banner that reads “BIG PHARMER.” Musing about the 26-year-old Romanian American artist — who is “the CEO of Good Boy Security canine couture fashion company and one half of the hot and sizzly DJ duo Miss Clitoral” — gallery director Anca Poterașu offered, “She’s using humor as a weapon.”
Dan Lam at Hashimoto Contemporary (Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco)
It makes perfect sense that Dallas-based sculptor Dan Lam is something of a social media sensation with nearly half a million Instagram followers. With polyurethane foam, epoxy resin, and acrylic paint as her mediums of choice, Lam creates “drippy” sculptures that bring to mind mutated jellyfish, technicolor microbes, melting candles, and slime experiments gone beautifully wrong. Vibrant and unabashedly weird, her works look right at home as curiosities on shelves, boldly blurring lines between fine art and conceptual home decor. When asked about the public reception to her work at Zona Maco, Hashimoto Contemporary founder Ken Harman Hashimoto confirmed that Lam is a crowd favorite at art fairs. “Her work is rewarding and fun,” he said. “People have been seeing it online for years and are always excited to see it in person.”