Mexico Life
This year's Material Art Fair will bring work from 73 galleries in 22 countries. This year's Material Art Fair will bring work from 73 galleries in 22 countries.

Not your average art fair: affordable art, inclusive vibes at Mexico City’s Material

Material Art Fair returns with its sixth edition and continues to grow on the world stage

Mexico City’s Material Art Fair has built itself over the past six years to become one of the world’s preeminent independent contemporary art fairs, this year featuring 73 galleries from 22 countries and 37 cities – the most geographically diverse to date.

In addition to the international showing, the fair features 18 Mexican galleries, with Mexico City favorites, LABOR, joségarcia and Lulu among them. Material has made a name for itself partly for its fellowship with the community it espouses, welcoming art fans of all levels with open arms.

This will mark Material’s second year at Frontón México, a breathtaking Art Deco-era jai alai stadium at the foot of the Monument to the Revolution in Colonia Tabacalera. Inside the stadium, gallery booths are situated throughout a two-story structural feat of scaffolding designed by the Mexico City-based architectural studio, APRDELESP, to display a full horizontal and vertical panorama of the offerings.

“Material is a home for wild ideas and, each year, we question everything. Our last edition was a huge step forward for us in terms of making the fair we had always imagined Material could be. Now we get to build on that foundation, which is incredibly exciting,” says Material partner and creative director Brett W. Schultz.

Expect to see some of contemporary art’s most intriguing international works – a wide array of new voices and established talents – often available at prices even budding collectors can manage. Thanks to Material’s growing reputation, this year’s gallery selection process became even more fiercely competitive.

Rodrigo Feliz, partner and exhibitor liaison, says, “We’ve never seen this level of competition in the fair’s application process. The selection committee had a very difficult task set out for them this year, but we couldn’t be happier with the results. It’s a very strong statement and it reflects Mexico City’s continued ascendance within the international contemporary art world.”

Offering a cross-section of the current state of the art world, Material’s exhibitors are broken into the fair’s principal section, showcasing both emerging and acclaimed commercial galleries, and the projects sections, featuring fresh perspectives from artist-run and non-profit spaces, as well as the future generation of commercial galleries.

Silke Lindner-Sutti, director of Jack Hanley Gallery of New York City, says of the fair, “I think that Material reflects and represents its city and contemporary art scene more than most fairs do. The fair’s program outside of its actual venue seems to be very engaged and involved in the city, its galleries, museums, restaurants, bars and events that initially were the breeding ground the fair emerged from.”

A first-time exhibitor, Jack Hanley Gallery will be showing Massachusetts-based painter Emma Kohlmann’s stylized hieroglyphic works on paper, representations of a sort of modern artifact. Lindner-Sutti explains, “The imagery of Emma’s works is heavily influenced by ancient figurines, statues and mythological narratives which relate perfectly to a city like Mexico City with such a rich history and culture. In a more practical sense, her works on paper are still very affordable which makes them accessible to a broad, young audience and collector base.”

Also incorporated in the experience is the fair’s immersive performance program, IMMATERIAL, known to pop up unexpectedly throughout the fair. IMMATERIAL Volume 3, called “an experiment in camouflage and relational practices,” brings performers to intermingle directly with fairgoers to create insurgent, surrealistic situations. Material is known for its low-key atmosphere, more of an effervescent party than an uptight transaction.

The fair will certainly continue to grow within the establishment as the years progress, but its fresh outlook is a welcome comfort. Future Gallery, showing an international roster this year of Romanian artist Botond Keresztesi, Lithuanian duo Pakui Hardware and Mexican artist Julieta Gil, has been an exhibitor since the fair’s inception.

Mercedes Gómez, director of Future Mexico City, explains, “Mexico hasn’t fully defined itself in the international art community and neither has Material. It’s as if they’re both finding their identities together.”

Material opens to the public at 3:00pm on Thursday, February 7 and runs through Sunday. Admission is 180 pesos for a one-day admission, 90 pesos for teachers, students and seniors.

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