Iga Janik, Curator Contemporary Art | March 14, 2016
Last month I traveled to Mexico City to attend Material Art Fair. This is the 3rd year that this high profile fair was presented as an alternative to the main commercial fair Zona Maco. The Material Art Fair hosted a large number of galleries from across the world, although in most part North, Central and South America.
For the most part, art fairs are designed as a commercial entity, selling artworks to collectors and institutions. As a curator I often find myself an outsider at traditional fairs where money speaks the loudest and overshadows any potential discourse on issues in contemporary art. The trend of alternative art fairs, however, is gaining momentum and it allows for the not-for-profit sector to showcase artists at all stages of their careers. The cost of presenting is much smaller, which allows for much more experimentation. The works are lower cost which provides access for many to purchase art and potentially start their personal collections. This alternative approach means more diversity, higher audience numbers, and an excellent overview of what’s happening in art across continents. It was my first time attending, and I have to say, the climate of the fair was electric! I saw an incredible array of work, and having been intrigued by art from Latin America for some time, it was an invaluable experience to witness the cultural vibrancy first hand and meet many of the curators and artists who made the same trip.
I went for two reasons. Research was my main goal, so that I can better understand the context of the Mexican art scene as we develop and prepare for an ambitious exhibition here at Idea Exchange Art + Design at the end of this year. We’ll be rolling out details of this show in coming months. The other was to support Ed Video Media Arts Centre based in Guelph, an organization I volunteer for as president of the Board of Directors. It’s a very important centre, and resource on all things media in our very own region. Ed Video has made efforts on a number of occasions to take our Ontario artists outside of Canadian boarders. I was curious how our artists are perceived in other parts of the world, and how our talent stacks against many other cultures.
I am thrilled to say, although the credit belongs entirely to Scott McGovern who curated the booth and chose highly experimental and maximalist approach to this presentation, we got plenty of attention. It was also illuminating how little is known about the Canadian art scene outside our borders. We seem to have a hard time sharing knowledge within the country, given its size, and it’s a sad truth, still today, that for the most part if you want to make it big in Canada, you first need to make it big outside the country.I want to leave you with several links to how the fair was received by the media. Even the New York Times saw that something very special happened in Mexico City this year. Are things better on the fringes? Is the amazingly rich cultural context and the warmth of the people in one of the largest cities in the world a contributing factor to this success? Or is it that the fair is still very young and the growing pains allow for such freedom? I’ll be keeping an eye on this for the next few years, and hope to attend next year to see how the success of this year contributes to the next few editions. For now, I am rejuvenated and fed with the potential for projects that embrace a challenge head on. Maybe chaos and magic are the better approach. I’ll be testing this theory in the coming months. Hope you’ll take some of it in, here, in our very own Cambridge.
Itinerant and Off-the-Map Galleries Find a Place in Mexico City’s Material Art Fair article in The Hyperallergic Newsletter
Material Art Fair 2016 | Reseña article in ARTINDF