FRONTRUNNER Meets ZONAMACO Founder/Director Zélika García
Zélika García is the Director and Founder of ZONAMACO, Latin America’s leading art fair, which she set up straight after graduating from University. She recognised a need for an art fair in the region that would help and support artists to exhibit and sell. García who resides in her Native México created ZONAMACO México Arte Contemporáneo (Contemporary Art Mexico) back in 2002, when it was called Muestra. The fair adopted the name ZONAMACO two years later and is now one of the most established and reputable Latin American art fairs in the world.
For the past two decades, García has worked with curators, artists and gallery owners to bring the fair to life each year. She champions emerging and established artists alike, and has won numerous accolades for her work. Some of the awards García has received include The World’s Most Creative Mexicans (Forbes México, 2015), Mont Blanc Women’s Trophy ‘Pioneer Woman’ (2014), Mexican Creatives That Amaze The World (Forbes México, 2014).
García talks to FRONTRUNNER about her creative ambitions as well as ZONAMACO’s place in the world.
Tell us all a little bit about yourself. Why were you drawn to the art world and creating an art fair?
I’ve always loved art and I’ve always been interested in learning about aesthetics and design. Alongside this, I enjoy planning and running a business, as well as meeting new people. I love stress sometimes – you know, the rush to get things done, fix them, or make them better. I studied arts at University of Monterrey (México) and after graduating I started ZONAMACO, my main project ever since. When I started the fair, it was a moment of great change in the contemporary art scene of Mexico. Galleries that are now leading international galleries were just starting out and collecting was not as common as it is now. I am very curious and creative. I love learning about established artists and finding young artists too. I grew up developing a great interest in art, so my creative ambition is to improve the experience for all the people who participate in and attend ZONAMACO every year.
What is something you could tell us about yourself that might surprise others to learn?
I received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Monterrey thinking I would graduate and become an artist. I was into making sculptures with different materials: marble, wood, ceramics, bronze…
How have art and culture been a part of your upbringing and how have they shaped who you are as a leader?
From a very young age, I have always been inspired by art and creativity. I think I found my inspiration in the numerous artistic proposals that already existed and needed a space for their promotion.
When you first founded ZONAMACO, what were your initial thoughts and inspirations? Were there things you wanted to say?
I founded ZONAMACO with the intention of opening a space for exhibiting art and promoting art collecting. Back then, I was confident that a space was needed in México to gather the work of international artists, but I never imagined that the fair would become what it is today: the most important art fair platform in Latin America.
How important is being rooted in México to both you and the fair?
México has become the ideal meeting point for the collectors between Latin America, Europe and the United States. ZONAMACO is a platform that changed the art scene in México. For 18 years, it has been a catalyst for cultural activities in the city and has attracted collectors, gallery owners and artists from all over the world, bringing together art professionals and turning México City into the epicenter of international art during ZONAMACO Art Week.
What about the role of others, connections and community; what do you feel is ZONAMACO’s role in the world?
I believe that ZONAMACO plays a fundamental role in the Latin American art scene. It has become an important meeting point for both gallery owners and collectors, curators and artists, students and art enthusiasts. ZONAMACO is the ideal art fair where you can find a wide range of artistic proposals not only from Asia, Europe and the United States, but also from Latin America. This year, instead of the fair we will present ZONAMACO Art Week with special projects from Mexican galleries in México City. Aiming to continue the dissemination of art and its collecting in México within the current context, this event will focus on the local scene and bolstering collaborations that nurture a sense of community between galleries, artists, collectors, designers, professionals and the general public.
What do you think is changing in the art world, particularly in relation to the next generation and young female leaders?
The art world is changing in many ways. In fact, the art world is always changing. In the arts there have always been female leaders, sometimes maybe not as visible as nowadays. The big difference is now they are, and in fact we are visible. Also, female artists are being recognized and promoted, which is relevant to rewrite art history from now. The role of young leaders is something good to our industry because they draw fresh ideas, new ways of approaching art to the public, with digital tools and social media.
How has this year impacted your ambitions for ZonaMaco and what do you think the future of the fair will look like?
Last year ZONAMACO gathered for the first time its four fairs: México Arte Contemporáneo, Diseño (Design), Foto (Photo) and ZONAMACO Salón. It was the biggest edition ever and it went very well. For 2021, we figured out how to adapt ZONAMACO to its context. The fair was postponed in its original format for February 9-13, 2022 at Centro Citibanamex. We’re currently working on ZONAMACO Art Week, which will take place from April 27 to May 2, 2021, presenting special projects from Mexican galleries in México City.
We invited all of the Mexican galleries to participate in ZONAMACO Art Week with the proposal of an exhibition project, which can be presented in collaboration with other galleries or individually. Our goal is to foster the concept of community by promoting projects where synergies are generated between the galleries in Mexico City and those located in other states that also wish to participate. At the same time, we’re also launching ZONAMACO PATIO: a program of art interventions in public spaces in México City, aimed at participating galleries who wish to expand their presence in the capital. PATIO will present installations, photography, performances, sculptures and ephemeral pieces, creating links with broader audiences.
With ZONAMACO Art Week, we hope to develop a program of special proposals and different art and design circuits, where coexistence and dialogue between spaces can emerge. In this way, movement will be encouraged throughout specific areas of the city with the intention of creating routes that give visibility to their artistic and design offers, along with restaurants and other places of social interest. There will also be an organised itinerary for collectors and professionals, that will support and foster the reactivation and visibility of artists and their work.
How do external factors like climate change, the political arena and societal change impact you and your work?
In many ways. ZONAMACO has adapted to the circumstances and will continue to do so. Art is a medium from which opinions related to these topics are expressed or represented. Art can also be the vehicle for a much larger initiative or cause. We’ve stopped most paper printing, and started using as much recyclable materials as possible, trying to help reduce our impact on the environment.
What else would you like to share with us that we haven’t asked you about?
I would like to mention that we are working on the next edition of the fair, taking into consideration the current context. The fair will take place from April 28th to May 2nd, 2021 in México City with the goal of reactivating the art market in the country with all sanitary, COVID precautions.