Mexico City’s art system is growing and thriving. Although other art hubs around the country are gaining traction—such as Monterrey and Guadalajara—the capital is still the heart of contemporary art. Despite a cultural policy that aims to redistribute cultural resources and power throughout the territory, Mexico City concentrates a huge number of important public, private, and independent contemporary art spaces, both commercial and nonprofit. Due to this centralization—combined with the cosmopolitan global image that the city projects internationally—during the city’s annual Art Week in early February, with ZsONAMACO and Material Art Fair, it’s overwhelmingly saturated with art.
Despite all that we have to offer, it is important to point out that the art communities in Mexico City are hard-pressed to achieve stable economic structures. So while approaching the topic of “emerging artists” based in Mexico City, I could not help but consider how restrictive that term can be.
What defines an emerging artist? Where do they emerge from? Where are they being projected? (I hope they are wearing a good helmet.) We could say that an “emerging artist” is anyone who has struck a balance between aesthetics and critical discourse, who pours time and energy into research and production, and ultimately, who contributes to their artistic community. But isn’t that any artist? Unfortunately, according to the global logic of the contemporary art world, the figure of the “emerging artist” tends to be shaped by the desire and speculation for certain young artists’ work. In some ways, it can reinforce elitism and privilege.
In most major art hubs, the term tends to apply to artists who are represented by a local gallery, gained some recognition from important museums, had a couple solo shows, and are starting to develop international reach—through art fairs or group shows organized by prominent curators. In Mexico, identifying artists by those criteria would lead me to write mostly about the work of heterosexual male artists, almost all of whom are over 35 years of age.
In Mexico City, there are many artists of my generation (between 25 and 35 years old) who have long made a great effort to maintain their rigorous art practices. However, despite their sustained trajectories—almost always with difficulty—they would not be considered “emerging artists” according to the aforementioned definition. For one, they are rarely represented by local galleries. Of 11 prominent galleries in Mexico City, only two represent more than two artists of my generation, while the majority represent one or none.
Other channels through which artists can gain recognition in Mexico are via grants by cultural authorities and private foundations, as well as curatorial research for institutional exhibitions, locally or internationally. Commercially, the vast majority of young artists in Mexico City don’t have a gallery that is stimulating their production and fostering a market for their work. What does this reveal?
I present here a list of 10 artists based in Mexico City—some of whom show with local galleries, some who do not—who I believe deserve recognition for the artistic, poetic, and cultural power of their work. I recognize that every list is an act of exclusion, so I urge readers to approach this list, and others, with healthy skepticism, remembering that an artist is always part of a support network of various other artists who are equally important.