by Almas SadiqueSep 30, 2023
Upon enduring the trauma of the past few years and the ongoing geopolitical schism, global art fairs seem to play a significant role as a middle ground. People travel from all around the world and get together to celebrate groundbreaking talents and set aside, if just for a moment, the borders that divide us. Increasingly, however, it is the satellite shows surrounding the main fairs that take centerstage and rebel against the definition of art, including instead new and historic works from the realm of design.
Such is the case for Transatlántico, an exhibition organised by Galerie Philia during Zona Maco Art Week in Mexico City. A temporary oasis takes over the entire floor of an office building in the flashy Polanco neighbourhood of Mexico City. The exhibition is curated by its founder Ygaël Attali in collaboration with House of Kirschner and together with Alban Roger and Jorge Brown Cott. “The idea was to create a dialogue between the most important designers in Latin America, in dialogue with the most important ones from Europe,” Attali said. “We are doing exhibitions all around the world on collectible design but this project is unique because it is the first time ever that this dialogue has taken place here.” Rather than merely bridging, the show is an integration of cultures with most pieces devoid of noticeable national traits that would otherwise suggest their provenance.
In collaboration with Mexico City-based event architect Mauricio Kirschner, the exhibition is divided into several rooms with continuously shifting atmospheres. Scent diffusers designed by Studio Roca permeate the spaces and corridors making for a fully immersive and sensorial experience. Past a mirror-clad threshold hangs a sculptural hammock crafted by Colombian studio Verdi in knotted cumare fibre, silk threads, and peacock feathers on each end.
The first space is dedicated to the Peruvian wetlands represented by woven plant fibre rugs. "These are aerial images from the coast of Lima," artist Rafael Freyre explained, "communities have been weaving the fibres of these native plants, the totora and junco (reed,) for six thousand years.” These pieces come from a larger project called Water Ecosystem which explores water’s relationship to its territory. Complementary to these organic shapes is a hanging tapestry from a series called Rivers, made with vegetable dyes and designed together with artists Ana Barbosa and Elvia Paucar. “The idea is to use totally natural, organic materials, to make it as sustainable as possible and have a direct relationship with the territory and the geography,” says Freyre.
An oversized armchair titled Yo Jaguar by Lilia Corona and Rodrigo Lobato is the "redefinition of Mexico’s national values according to the political and economic visions of contemporary México,” as they described in their statement. Jaguar warriors were soldiers of the Aztec army considered to be from a lower social class. “Today, the idea of a meritocracy is broadcast as a neoliberal concept, and used to drive the self-exploitation of labour under the suggestion that favourable socioeconomic conditions are always possible if only one works hard enough.” This piece seeks to honour and represent working families while also providing "the humble seat that bestows rest and dignity.”
A bright room next door surrounded by white curtains showcased the cushiony mohair velvet pieces by New York and Florence-based designer Pietro Franceschini. The collection, part of his exploration into Neotenic Design and reminiscent of 1960s De Sede, seemed to belong in its own metaverse rather than having a connection to Europe or America.
In a separate section, light wood-clad rooms overlooked the Mexico City skyline while Brian Eno's 1970s Ambient 1: Music for Airports surrounded the naturally-lit space. Small islands created individual atmospheres highlighting pieces like sculpted blown-glass by Vissio, black crystal and electro-painted steel mirrors by Joel Escalona and Breuer Estudio. An ongoing theme was the uncanny mix of different materials and textures that coalesce like the crystal and blown glass Overgrown Bubbles by Alex de Witte and Mark Sturkenboom, the brass and malachite cabinet by Pierre de Valck, the Montaña table by Comité de Proyectos, or the solid bronze chair by Rick Owens upholstered in camel fur.
Galerie Philia was founded in Geneva in 2015 when they first represented little-known artists like Frederic Saulou, Cédric Breisacher, and Jerome Pereira. Today, a show highlighting 100 pieces by 40 designers, of which 80 per cent were specially commissioned for this occasion, is a testament to the impact and renaissance Mexico City has recently had within the art and design industry. With established collectors as much as young aesthetes flocking in from near and far, this was definitely the place to be.
The immersive exhibition 'Transatlántico' is on view at Galerie Philia in Mexico City till September 29, 2022.