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 Luis Barragán's Plaza 
de la Revolución 
with bench and 
concrete umbrella.

Barragán concrete 
bench with room
for storage. 

Jose Bedia, 
Invictus, 1996, 
at A/B/S Projects. 

Annina Nosei's 
booth, with works 
by Galan, Teresa 
Serrano and 
Arturo Elizondo.

Megan Williams, 
Three Seats, 1994, at 
Christopher Grimes. 

Mary-Anne Martin, 
center, on top 
of things.

Jose Clemente Orozco, 
Still Life, 1944, 
at Enrique Guerrero. 

At the fair (from 
right), Lorna Simpson 
and Andrea Rosen.

A Mexican icon: 
Posada's Death as 
a Noveaux Riche 
Old Lady.

Lorna Simpson, 
Bill Arning and 
Paolo Colombo.

Lola Alvarez 
Bravo at 

A farewell smile: 
Senegalese curator 
Eri Camara.

guadalajara buzz 

by Eduardo Costa

As the art world was gearing up for its 

new fall season, the Mexican city of 

Guadalajara was playing host to the 

international cutting-edge art fair 

Expoarte, Sept. 26-30, 1996. Now in its 

fifth year, Expoarte is better than ever, 

with 57 galleries from 13 countries 

exhibiting work by approximately 400 

artists. Most of the work on view was very 

good. By my estimates, 80 percent of the 

stuff rated from acceptable to great, while 

20 percent ranged from mediocre to 

depressing--just the opposite of Miami's 

art fair. 

And how was this achieved? Well, the 

organizers were selective, making 

Guadalajara a curated fair. Plus the site 

helped, with its airy spaces, cool cement 

floors and simple white partitions. It also 

helped that the fair was accompanied by 

symposia that included several art "big 

heads." The thinking crowd can be counted 

to add seriousness and sometimes drama to 

the event--last year the veteran Italian 

critic and Venice Biennale curator Achille 

Bonito Oliva, under heavy attack from the 

French organizer of Documenta, Catherine 

David, smashed the microphone against the 

floor. This year, curator Claudia Madrazo 

took the microphone to announce that she 

only cared to speak to three people in the 

audience, hence the others could leave--and 

most of them did. And then there was the 

crowd--a quotient of invited artists, 

curators with their parallel shows and, of 

course, the collectors.

The host city is right for the event as 

well. Guadalajara has always guarded its 

traditions while at the same time investing 

in what proved to be superb premonitions of 

the art to come. Remember the great Mexican 

muralist José Clemente Orozco? A native of 

Guadalajara, he was trusted with huge 

commissions that he produced in wildly 

site-specific versions. For instance, 

Orozco murals rule the walls of the Main 

Chapel of the Cabañas, an old, fabulous 

mental hospital turned government building, 

which served as the reception center for 

the art fair. As Paolo Colombo, the 

director of Geneva's Center for 

Contemporary Art, put it, "They brought me 

straight from the airport to this 

incredible art, and they gave me drinks." 

Instead of benches, the Chapel has large 

banquettes for people to lie on their backs 

and look up at the murals. 

Another Guadalajara native was architect 

Luis Barragán. Some of his houses from the 

1930s are open to visitors, and one of his 

parks, the Plaza de la Revolución, is an 

urban oasis that blends tropical vegetation 

with original benches, fountains and calmly 

twisting paths. A local poet, Víctor Ortiz, 

took me to the park. There is a saying in 

Guadalajara that goes, "The tree that grows 

up twisted will be bought by Barragán." 

With this kind of esthetic thinking a 

commonplace, it's no wonder that Expoarte's 

new imagination felt right at home.

Lodging was in central Guadalajara, near 

the great plazas and colonial buildings. 

Coming in by taxi from the airport I saw 

the famous roses--Guadalajara is also known 

as the City of the Roses. These large roses 

are different than any other, seeming to 

float in mid air, since the bushes have 

very few leaves. A shuttle bus would take 

everybody out to the fair in the morning, 

and bring us all back that evening. On my 

first commute, I happened to sit next to 

Lorna Simpson, and 30 minutes of intense 

conversation followed. She was very happy 

with her new work (photographs printed on 

felt, mostly about making love in public 

places), and we also discussed African 

religions, family life, gender tensions as 

they occur among us and in other cultures. 

The chat was a great example of the 

camaraderie that permeated the fair 


As is usual with such events, opening 

ceremonies for the fair on Sept. 26 were 

marked by speeches, delivered by Mr. 

Schmidhuber, who is the Secretary of 

Culture of Jalisco State, as well as by 

Pablo del Val, organizer of the fair. At 

one point I saw the French art star Orlan 

proudly displaying her scarifications. 

These embellishments are rather Star Trek, 

a pair of skin elevations in the form of 

croissants about three centimeters long 

each that decorate the area on top and to 

the sides of her eyebrows. Orlan's work has 

consisted mostly of radical plastic 

surgery, in which she has had her face 

remade to look like the faces of certain 

classic art works, among them the Mona 

Lisa. She has the operations photographed 

and then sells the lacerating evidence. In 

Japan in the year 2000, Orlan is scheduled 

to build on her face a flesh and bone nose 

stemming from mid-forehead and sticking out 

some 8 centimeters. I met Orlan last year, 

at my Thanksgiving party, and already she 

had in mind to celebrate the new millennium 

with this piece. She honestly believes her 

work is blasphemous. I don't think the gods 

are very worried about it, but she should 

probably be, since she may not survive the 

many defigurations needed to keep people 

talking. In any case, Orlan was intelligent 

and provocative at the symposia, vibrating 

always with a mixture of talent and 


As the fair went on, the parallel shows 

opened. There were several, all of them 

interesting, and it was great to circulate 

from one to another. Among these, "Video Faz"

curated by Ruben Gallo and Terence Gower, 

was a remarkable collection of 10 

international video self-portraits and, 

together with Opera's Videofiesta Quebec, 

Canada, the only specific presentation of 

the medium at Expoarte. 

For Paris' Galerie Froment and Putman, 

flying to Mexico paid big. They sold a 

couple of small works and an important 

piece by James Turrell. The piece is a 

walk-in cabin where you put on a high-tech 

helmet. Then you manipulate three dials to 

send flashes of intense blue, yellow and 

red light into your corneas. Who would buy 

the optic nerve-stabbing, post-Mondrian 

device? It seems a Mexican collector did, 

for an undisclosed, and substantial, 


Many gallerists reported sales. The 

Brazilian dealer Marcantonio Vilaca said he 

would come back next year whether he had 

any sales or not--and by the end he had 

closed some sales and said this was the 

best fair he'd been to. Enrique Guerrero, on 

the third day, hadn't sold anything but he 

was sure at least three of his important 

works would change hands in the next three 

months, going to people who saw them at the 

fair. Sandra Gering sold six works at 

prices between $2,000 and $6,000, and was 

very happy with the whole thing. And Annina 

Nosei, with a disarming smile, said she had 

sold a couple of important pieces and had 

reserves on a couple more. On the third day 

of the fair, Nina Menocal, an important 

Mexican Gallery, had not sold anything. She 

had very interesting work, and is 

remarkably charming, but surmised that the 

many invited collectors were entertained so 

incessantly that they didn't have any 

energy left for the art. 

Other dealers also thought collectors should 

spend more time looking at the work. OMR, 

another important Mexican gallery, had sold 

a few works in the $3,000-$5,000 range by 

the fourth day. Christopher Grimes from Santa 

Monica also was happy; he made good contacts 

with other dealers, and sold five works at 

prices ranging from $1,500 to $4,000. Andrea 

Rosen was doing well with "Mexican, European 

and American collectors," she said, but did 

not volunteer details. George Adams of New 

York, Fredric Snitzer of Coral Gables, 

Fla., and Ramis Barquet from Mexico formed 

an ad hoc group called A/B/S projects to 

present work by José Bedia. They said they 

sold three of the six paintings, measuring 

9 x 6 ft., at around $18,000-$25,000 each. 

In all, dealer's faces were quite relaxed 

and you could even spot some smiles. 

Although the fair was about the cutting 

edge, some galleries showed Latin American 

masters, to address what is seen as a 

potential group of powerful local 

collectors. Enrique Guerrero had a 

wonderful selection of classics: Diego 

Rivera's `54 Portrait of Lupita Cruz 

($750,000), a really great volcanic 

landscape by Siqueiros ($60,000), a superb 

J.C. Orozco ($800,000), a Remedios Varo 

(not for sale) and a `24 Rodríguez Lozano 

($35,000). New York City's own Mary-Anne 

Martin showed a great, medium-sized Leonora 

Carrington, solid works by Orozco and 

Rivera, and three intense and 

characteristic Gunther Gerzso paintings 

(prices ranging from $35,000 to $70,000. 

Throckmorton Fine Arts presented the 

classics of photography, including works by 

Lola and Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Tina Modotti 

and some wonderful period prints about a 

century old (starting at $250). 

The symposia took place in a three-day 

stretch, with morning and afternoon 

meetings. They were organized by Cuban 

curator Osvaldo Sánchez. Although I missed 

some of the meetings, what I caught was 

quite substantial. Paolo Colombo elaborated 

on the current crisis for many cash-starved 

Kunshalles, which do not collect but rather 

complement the museum role by providing a 

kind of enlarged atelier for artists. Eri 

Camara, a curator from Senegal and Mexico, 

discussed the Disneyfication of culture--

like the Metropolitan with its many 

boutiques around the world--and 

multiculturalism as a prescription for the 

market, since it's not enough to include 

"the other" in Occidental narration. René 

Cohelo, director of Amsterdam's Montevideo, 

made a substantial presentation on media 

art. Other participants were Lois Keidan 

(London's ICA), Norman Batkin (Center for 

Curatorial Studies at Bard), María del 

Corral (Barcelona's Fundació La Caixa), 

Bill Arning (writer and curator from NYC), 

Carlos Aranda (Mexican curator), Ivo 

Mezquita (Brazilian writer and curator), 

Olivier Debroise (Mexican curator) and 

Sabrine Beitwieser (Vienna's EA-Generali 


And what would I buy? A number of things. 

Among them Mona Hatoum's black-and-white 

photograph of two feet walking as they drag 

one boot tied to each ankle (at Chantal 

Crousel); Lorna Simpsons "Nine Props," an 

ensemble of lithographs on felt showing 

nine vases which played minor roles in old 

photos--subtly feminist and beautiful (at 

Dorsky); Saint Clair Cemin's small 

sculpture of a motherly looking mass of 

hardly shaped marble and another, 

separated, childlike mass, both connected 

by a piece of wire undulating from the 

mother's "breast" to the child's "mouth" 

(at Ramis Barquet); Willie Doherty's 

impressive shots of a site that was bombed 

in Ireland, before the immediate clean-up 

that always follows (at Flay and 

Bourgeois); Liliana Porter's photograph of 

two mini-dolls communicating on a field of 

nothingness (at Ruth Benzacar); Helio 

Oiticica's "Metaesquemas" paintings from 

1957-58 (at Edelstein); John McCracken's 

outrageously colored Minimal prism (Froment 

& Putman); J.F. Herrán's five-foot-in-

diameter, thick carpet representing the CIA 

logo (at Valenzuela y Klenner); Miguel 

Ángel Ríos' living, red painting of a maguey 

plant on green color field (at OMR); 

Valeska Soares' pair of metal feet joined 

by a long, thick, and red velvet rope (at 

Camargo-Vilaca); and Ladrón de Guevara's 

photographs of vanishing ayes (at Nina 


Other artists with interesting work on 

view: Uli Aigner, William Anastasi, Luis 

Benedit, Ashley Bickerton, Sophie Calle, 

Nicola Constantino, Tony Cragg, Arturo 

Duclós, Jeanne Dunning, Arturo Elizondo, 

Julio Galán, Terence Gower, Silvia Gruner, 

Jane Hammond, Katcho, Robert Kelly, Mike 

Kelley, Patricia Landen, Laura London, 

Chelo Matesanz, Iñigo Manglano Ovalle, 

Cildo Meirelles, Ana Mendieta, Annette 

Messanger, Yoko Ono, Tom Otterness, Raymond 

Pettibon, Sigmar Polke, Richard Prince, 

Cosimo Di Leo Ricatto, Elena del Rivero, 

Daniela Rosell, Chéri Samba, Julian 

Schnabel, Kiki Smith, Seton Smith, Valeska 

Soares, Peter Sandbichler, Teresa Serrano, 

Raymundo Sesma, Wolfgang Tillmans, Riskrit 

Tiravanija, Boris Viskin, Jeff Wall, Nahum 

Zenil and Andrea Zittel.

EDUARDO COSTA is a writer who lives and 

works on the Internet.