With a distinct DIY attitude, La Panadería hosted hundreds of exhibitions, performances, events, and parties that defied the art-world establishment, until it closed in 2002. The organizing members essentially lived there, regularly joined by friends, supporters, and guest artists. “It was a necessity,” Calderón recounts. “The art context was extremely official,” adds his active collaborator, the filmmaker Artemio Narro. “It was really hard to penetrate into the art system.” For many years, aside from the odd grant (like a grant from the US-Mexico Fund for Culture), La Panadería relied on its parties and beer sales to be financially sustainable, which reaffirmed the social and inclusive ethos of the group. “What Miguel and Yoshua did at the time was quite radical, more conceptual than most places,” remembers American performance and video artist Jennifer Locke, who stayed at the space in 1995 as part of a group show of female artists from the Bay Area.
After the 1994–1995 financial crisis, the role the art space played became more important, argues Mexican curator Pablo León de la Barra, Guggenheim
UBS Map Curator, Latin America: “In a moment where everything was collapsing, La Panadería and others became spaces of resistance and creation in a period of institutional and market failure.”
The international ambition of La Panadería was a key element of its development, and is often credited as having significantly contributed to reconnecting Mexico to the broader art world. “When we opened the space, the first thing I started doing was: ‘I like
. Let’s invite Mike Kelley,’” Calderón remembers. “He didn’t come! But a lot of other artists did come.” Over the years, internationally celebrated artists such as
, Kurt Hollander, the collective
, and, of course, Mexico-based
exhibited at the former bakery. “We devoted a room in the building to foreign artists,” explains Okón. “Soon, many of us were getting invitations for exhibitions abroad.”