In the 1990s, Zélika García fell in love with the art fair Expo-Arte Guadalajara. Ahead of its last presentation in 1998, she was impressed by its ability to showcase Mexico’s creativity in a fair setting and wanted to continue its unique positioning in Latin America. That’s why in 2002 she launched her first art fair, Muestra I, in Monterrey, Mexico, and its second iteration, Muestra II, the next year in Mexico City. In 2004, the concept behind Muestra transformed into the first iteration of ZsONAMACO, bringing art patrons from around the world to the city’s capital for a weeklong celebration of arts, cultural activations, global partnerships, and more.
This year, ZⓈONAMACO (February 7–11) celebrated its 20th-anniversary presentation at Centro Citibanamex, with 212 exhibitors from 25 countries. Around 80,000 visitors entered in just five days. Filled with art and design installations galore, the fair has consistently hosted an array of outside programming and internal sections around its main art program, ZsONAMACO México Arte Contemporáneo—like ZsONOMACO Diseño, featuring jewelry, textiles, furniture, and design objects; ZsONAMACO Salón del Anticuario, focused on antiques; and ZsONA MACO Foto, including photography. This year, it also welcomes two photographic murals that showcase the past two decades of the fair, a talk discussing the fair’s evolution, and a new program named FORMA.
ZsONAMACO 2024 also presented a selection of awards—in collaboration with organizations like Casa Wabi, the Palm Foundaiton, Premio Tequila 1800, and the Erarta Foundation. The latter, the ZsONAMACO (EF&ZM) Art Prize Competition, is the largest to be awarded at any art fair worldwide, selected by fairgoers.
García gave Whitewall an informative tour of ZsONAMACO’s anniversary presentation, and shared a list of her favorite spaces outside the fair.
WHITEWALL: What was your first “aha” moment with art?
ZÉLIKA GARCÍA: Since my childhood, I have been immersed in the art world thanks to my grandmother who frequently took me to various exhibitions. This experience was fundamental to awakening my passion for art and inspired me to study this discipline.
WW: How did that evolve into Muestra, and then ZsONAMACO?
ZG: Expo-Arte Guadalajara was no longer held and I realized that Mexico needed a platform that promoted art and collecting, and offered an international projection to the participants. It was then that I founded ZsONAMACO.
At that time, I could not have imagined that the fair would become what it is today. Today, ZsONAMACO is the most important art platform in Latin America and this year celebrates its twentieth anniversary presenting 212 exhibitors from 25 countries.
WW: What were your thoughts on the possibility of art being curated, exhibited, and sold in Mexico then? What about now?
ZG: The contemporary art scene in Mexico has undergone significant changes. Both the market and the artistic offer have experienced considerable growth, evolving at almost the same pace. Along with the historically relevant galleries in the country, new galleries have emerged that have managed to consolidate themselves in recent years, while others are in the process of establishing themselves. In my opinion, ZsONAMACO has played a fundamental role in this process. The fair not only brings together projects from galleries from various parts of the world in one place but has also contributed to demystifying contemporary art and encouraging collecting in the country. The exchange between artists, collectors, and curators that takes place during ZsONAMACO has contributed to further internationalizing the Mexican art market, turning Mexico City into the epicenter of art during ZsONAMACO Art Week every February.
WW: This is the 20th anniversary of ZsONAMACO. What are some of the fair’s special experiences, activities, or highlights that celebrate this milestone?
ZG: It will be a very special edition because we are celebrating 20 years. I consider this moment an important milestone in the history of the fair because it represents the result of the hard work carried out during the last two decades. This year we have several highlights.
There are two photographic murals depicting ZsONAMACO’s trajectory over the past 20 years. Artsy Nights will take place, a great celebration party featuring international musical talent. We’re also presenting FORMA, a special program in commemoration of ZsONAMACO’s twentieth anniversary, where the fair’s longest-running galleries will present historical or site-specific projects in a format never seen before at the fair.
ZsONAMACO in collaboration with Fundación Erarta, will award the Erarta Foundation ZsONAMACO Art Prize, the largest prize awarded in the history of an art fair. This prize will be equivalent to 100,000 dollars—and the winner will be chosen by fair attendees rather than a jury of art professionals. This initiative gives the public the opportunity to choose the “most outstanding work of the exhibition.” Visitors will vote from a pre-selection of works and the one with the most votes will be the winner.
WW: The fair also hosts an extensive lineup of talks and conversations. Can you share details on those for the 2024 edition?
ZG: The talk “20 years of ZsONAMACO” was held on Thursday. During the talk voices that have been part of the fair as curators of the art fair’s sections, artistic directors, members of the selection committee and gallery owners, reflected together with me on the impact that ZsONAMACO has represented in the artistic context of Mexico and internationally. Participants: Juan Canela (chief curator, MAC Panama), Patrick Charpenel (executive director, El Museo del Barrio, NY), Zélika García (founder of ZsONAMACO), Daniel Garza Usabiaga (PhD in art history and theory and independent curator), Enrique Guerrero (founder and director Galería Enrique Guerrero), Pablo León de la Barra (curator for Latin America, Guggenheim Museum, NY), SIlvia Ortiz (co-founder of Travesía Cuatro). Moderator: Direlia Lazo (artistic director of ZsONAMACO).
Finally, as we do every year, we’re presenting a program of conversations with international panelists who will discuss topics of current relevance in the artistic field, as well as an extensive program of parallel activities open to the public, including exhibitions, openings, and special events in galleries and museums in Mexico City.
WW: Where do you like to see art when in Mexico City, beyond the fair?
ZG: Museo Tamayo, MUAC, and Museo Jumex have a year-round program of international exhibitions together with the most relevant proposals of Mexican artists. Also, The Museum of Modern Art (MAM) is a not-miss to catch classics like Frida Kahlo and Angel Zarraga.
WW: Where do you like to eat, drink, dance, or shop?
ZG: Bomboti just opened in Polanco with a great selection of Mexican designers, ranging from apparel to furniture to homeware. For a great selection of cheese try Le Petit Gourmand. Vinos Chidos and Expendio both have a wide range of wines. La Lagunilla flea market on Sundays is the perfect plan to shop for antiques and rarities with a michelada in hand. Parque Lincoln in the Polanco neighborhood is a great place to stroll, enjoy lunch, or indulge in some ice cream. For cycling, I recommend the Bosque de Chapultepec as a fantastic option. For hiking, I recommend Desierto de los Leones.
WW: Next month, ABC Art Baja California—another fair you lead—is taking place. What can art patrons who will leave ZsONAMACO for it expect in March and April throughout San José, Todos Santos, La Paz, Tijuana, and Ensenada?
ZG: The festival promotes art and culture in different locations at Baja California, focusing on the local scene through the promotion of cultural collaborations. ABC Art Baja not only features art, but also music, dance, and any other artistic interventions in galleries, restaurants, bars, and other local participants’ venues.
WW: What are your hopes for 2024?
ZG: I hope that in 2024, ZsONAMACO will grow even more. My greatest vision is to help my country grow, and with the fair, we have achieved it. I hope to continue helping to promote the culture of collecting and the love of art in Mexico. Also, the goal is to bring in new proposals and formats, such as FORMA, according to the trends of the art market to the fair.