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BerandaLifestyleFamily & RelationshipsMexico City’s Material Fair, Known for Its Line-Up of Cutting Edge Galleries,...

Mexico City’s Material Fair, Known for Its Line-Up of Cutting Edge Galleries, Celebrates 10 Years

Zona Maco, the 20-year-old fair anchoring Mexico City’s February Art Week right now, is not the only event celebrating an anniversary this week. The other, Fería Material, which turns 10 this month, is also marking a big moment. Founded in 2014 by a group of galleries as a satellite to Zona Maco, the fair has over the past decade established itself as a place to discover some of Mexico’s most interesting gallery programs and emerging artists. wedeqq

To learn more about Material’s history, ARTnews spoke with Brett W. Schultz, the cofounder and director of Material, which runs February 8–11 at Expo Reforma in the city’s Colonia Juárez neighborhood.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

ARTnews: What was the the motivation to start the fair?  

Brett W. Schultz: Back in that era, I was a gallerist. I ran a gallery called Yautepec, with my then partner, Daniela Elbahara. Yautepec had been doing art fairs for a few years. We did Zona Maco, I think, three years in a row. But, with the experience of doing art fairs elsewhere, like NADA or Art-o-rama in Marseille, we felt that this is something that can be done differently.

In Mexico City, there was an explosion around 2012, 2013, with all these artist-run, independent spaces. A lot of them were inspired by this one really wild space called Preteen Gallery, which was more famous on Twitter. Pretty soon, there was Bikini Wax, Lodos, Lulu—all these companies like interesting spaces with exciting programs started to emerge right around that time.

We made a lot of interesting gallerist friends doing international fairs. We had this idea of a Mexico City event that could champion a new generation, not only in Mexico, but internationally as well. It just seemed like the time to do it.

In 2013, we decided not to do Zona Maco and instead organize this collective exhibition with a few other galleries, like Proyectos Ultravioleta from Guatemala, DiabloRosso in Panama, and Sultana from Paris. We put together this pop-up show in a house in the Roma neighborhood during Art Week. The experience was so much more enjoyable than doing an art fair—the camaraderie, the collaboration, the quality time with the collectors and curators who came by. Paradoxically, after that, the idea was to start an art fair with that spirit of a more intimate, boutique event, where there’s an emphasis on context. We didn’t want to collapse contexts as art fairs often do. We wanted to make a generational statement. wedeqq

What were the next steps in planning the first fair in 2014?

Zona Maco used to take place in April, but 2013 was the last year in it took place in April. Then, the dates switched to February, so we had two, two-and-a-half months less to plan our fair. We participated in NADA Miami in December 2013, and Daniela and I were still hustling, trying to get galleries to participate in the fair and sell our last booths. But the end result was amazing.

It did feel like it marked this moment that was beginning in Mexico City. It was a small event, with 38 galleries, and maybe 2,500 people came. Great collectors came through, and they bought a lot. It was an event made among friends. The question we got asked several times a day [during the fair] was, “Are you going to do another one?” Well, we had to.

So, how was the second edition in 2015?

For the second edition, we changed venues and were in the Condesa neighborhood. That one was interesting because we got really great galleries to participate because of a lot of hype after the first edition. It had a number of beautiful moments, like Puppies Puppies’s famous SpongeBob performance in the Queer Thoughts booth. But it was totally a sophomore slump moment. It became very clear to us that whatever hype we received was a very localized phenomenon, within a specific contemporary art circle. With that second edition, we realized that there was a lot of other work during the year to make these four days successful. That was the moment where we started to take it seriously. I began dedicating a lot more time to the fair and less time to the gallery.

Portrait of Brett W. Schultz with his arms raised.
Brett W. Schultz, Material’s cofounder and director.COURTESY FERÍA MATERIAL

What are some other key moments in the fair’s history?

The 2017 edition was the first time we had Immaterial, a performance program. The fifth edition in 2018 was the one that felt like things really exploded. That was the first edition that we did at the Frontón México, with three levels of scaffolding. That was an insane project. When we started in 2014 in a hotel downtown, I never would have thought that we would do something like that event. We did three fairs there: 2018, 2019, and 2020. The fair was getting better in terms of quality. And then, the pandemic came.

We had been lucky enough to do the fair [in 2020] because it was a month before lockdown. I think it was like in June of that year that we realized this wasn’t a three-week thing and we were all in this for the long haul. That brought a period of self-reflection of what we could do with Material in this new context. wedeqq