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Kurimanzutto opens doors to new art gallery in Mexico City

November 30, 2008 |  1:43 pm

Pb283237 The beautiful people were out in force on Saturday afternoon in Mexico City for the opening of the new Kurimanzutto contemporary art gallery in the San Miguel de Chapultepec neighborhood.

Cool young Mexicans mixed with a manicured, international crowd; back-combed hair and skinny jeans mingled with manicured, slender women, over-sized glasses and fake gold handbags. It was so retro, and so now.

Rather than sipping champagne from long-stemmed glasses, guests sucked fruit juice out of cardboard cartons. American English blended with Spanish in this elegant and luminous inside-outside space that looks a world away from the timber yard that it once was. Visitors start inside the building but under an open sky, then walk into a showroom covered by a ceiling of fogged glass that lets in the daylight and is supported by grand, wooden beams reminiscent of a farmer’s barn.

Then it’s outside again and through a tiny, Japanese-style garden and up the back steps into a smaller space hung with paintings and photographs.

Kurimanzutto boasts a collection of some of Mexico’s most up and coming contemporary artists, including Damián Ortega, Daniel Guzmán (see video below) and Gabriel Orozco. To the uninitiated, the main showroom might be reminiscent of a secondhand store, with installations including a suitcase full of '70s style pornographic photos and a cork pin board covered with photographs –- all mounted on bare metal bookshelves. But a closer look proves more fulfilling, and the choice of such basic furniture to present the exhibits was, of course, part of the message.

“For this exhibition we have decided to evoke the testimony of an incidental –- yet fundamental –- protagonist: the bookshelf living in almost any artist’s studio,” reads the introduction handed out at the opening.

“This piece of furniture is confident and witness to the working processes of its owner, neatly reflecting his/her interests, obsessions, references and current ideas.... The shelf is equally storeroom, shelter and plinth.”

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Attendees seemed impressed.

Daniela Hernandez, 23, a law student, welcomed the space, saying, “It’s really important that they’re changing the gallery spaces here because they really need it and there’s a lot to do.”

“This is the most important contemporary art gallery in Mexico,” said Mariano Rocha, a 26-year-old fashion magazine editor.

That's not strictly true. La Coleccion Jumex, situated about half an hour north of the city in the gritty, industrial neighborhood of Ecatepec, is 15,000 square feet of Latin American art open to the public and owned by Eugenio Lopez Alonso, heir to the Mexican Jumex juice fortune. But Jumex's is a permanent collection and although widely regarded as one of the world's most important public showcases of Latin American art, nothing is for sale.

Kurimanzutto, on the other hand, is a commercial gallery, so comparing the two is rather like comparing apples and oranges. However, for people who are looking, not shopping, Kurimanzutto does have the advantage of being located more centrally, and is just a stone’s throw from Mexico City’s central park, Bosque de Chapultepec.

Pb283234 Abdon Flores, a Paris-based Mexican fashion designer at Saturday's launch, said that he enjoyed the size of the new gallery: “It’s huge –- that’s important for Mexico because galleries here are usually small.”

Flores’ companion Anna Rockwell, a 27-year-old American artist, said: “I like the idea that it’s collective. It raises a new way of structuring art shows that’s not so much about individual ego and ‘I’m making it as an international art star and you’re not,’ but more about working together and sharing ideas.

“It’s more of a dialogue, which for me is a lot more interesting because that’s the most interesting thing about art.”

Click on the video for a glimpse of part of Daniel Guzmán's installation at the Kurimanzutto gallery.

-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City

Photos: The beautiful people, top, are out in force Saturday afternoon in Mexico City for the opening of the new Kurimanzutto contemporary art gallery in the San Miguel de Chapultepec neighborhood. Daniela Hernandez, 23, a law student, and Mariano Rocha, 26, a fashion magazine editor, middle, are among those at the launch. Others attending the exhibition opening, bottom, include Abdon Flores, a Paris-based Mexican fashion designer, and American artist Anna Rockwell. Credits: Deborah Bonello / Los Angeles Times

* This post was edited at 12:27pm Mexico City time. La Coleccion Jumex is not a commercial gallery, unlike Kurimanzutto.

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