Mexico City’s Art Community Joins Recovery Efforts—Here’s How You Can Help
Update: September 22nd, 2017
This article has been updated to reflect additional details provided by the galleries on their relief efforts.
Members of the Mexico City arts community put a long-planned gallery weekend on hold and dove into recovery efforts following the devastating earthquake that struck Mexico on Tuesday.
The quake left at least 230 people dead, including 30 schoolchildren, and turned many buildings into rubble.
Gallery Weekend Mexico City, which was inaugurated in 2013, was due to kick off Thursday evening. Organizers said they, as well as the staff and artists from participating galleries, were all safe and accounted for.
“The arts community is completely into the rescue and support efforts,” said Ricardo Porrero, the director of Gallery Weekend Mexico City. “Galleries such as Alterna, LABOR, Marso, and Páramo, and Fundación Alumnos, among others are operating as collection centers for supplies. Gallery staffs as well as ours have volunteered to aid quake victims.” Porrero said on Wednesday night that some artworks may be affected, although the gallery buildings were not.
Many galleries sent out communications to announce the suspension of programming until further notice, and encouraged people to donate to relief efforts.
“We have basically put on hold all our activities to focus on our community, finding ways to help,” said Polina Stroganova of Proyectos Monclova. “All gallery members have been putting efforts to provide help on the streets and in the most affected sites, providing supplies, food, medicine, and gadgets for the ones in need, as well as making donations to active rescue organizations.”
Kerstin Erdmann, director of Galería OMR, said her gallery was also closed for the moment. “We are trying to be in the streets and helping as much as we can,” she said. She added that gallery staff had been in the gallery when the earthquake occurred, on the first floor. She said the building sustained minor damage, such as cracks in the wall and doors that came unhinged, and a dozen artworks broke. The gallery will be launching a fundraising campaign soon, she added.
LABOR said in a statement that the gallery was postponing the opening of “An Index and Its Settings,” a solo exhibition by Gala Porras-Kim. “Our time is meant to support those who need it most,” the statement said, noting it would make its gallery available as a collection center for goods to support victims of the quake.
The Armory Show, the New York City art fair, had been scheduled to hold a VIP dinner event on Thursday night for collectors and dealers at the upscale Condesa Hotel in Mexico City’s Condesa district to celebrate the gallery weekend. The organizers decided to cancel the dinner and donate the cost of hosting the event to charities that are aiding the relief effort, said Benjamin Genocchio, director of The Armory Show.
“We hope all are safe and wish a speedy recovery of one of the world’s great art cities,” Genocchio said.
The art fair Zsona Maco will continue to run its Foto and Salón Del Anticuario fairs from September 20–24, but organizers announced it would be donating the proceeds from Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday’s ticket sales to Topos, “a local nonprofit organization that was created following the earthquake in 1985…currently supporting rescue efforts in Chiapas, Oaxaca, Puebla and Mexico City.”
Brett Schultz of BWSMX had planned an opening of work by Fabiola Menchelli for Wednesday night, but also postponed the event. He said his gallery, which is in an older building that had already survived several earthquakes, appeared to have sustained only relatively minor damage, but he is awaiting a thorough inspection of the building’s structural stability before he reopens the gallery. His staff and artists are safe and accounted for.
“I think nearly everyone I know is out on the streets right now directly assisting in the relief efforts, be it at the collection centers, the rescue sites, or helping to move supplies around,” Schultz said. “There has been an incredible outpouring of civic action and support city-wide.”
Schultz said the moving displays of solidarity should not “make us forget that these tragedies never should have occurred in the first place. The next step, after helping the victims, is to “shift that same focus and energy to hold those people accountable who are responsible for the state of these buildings that collapsed and the entire culture of corruption that is truly to blame for what we’ve experienced here.”
Curator Chris Sharp, co-founder of the independent art space Lulu, said he, his co-founder Martin Soto Climent, his assistants, and his artist, Lin May Saeed, were safe: “Scared, shocked, and confused, but physically unharmed,” he said. “The resilience of Mexicans and Mexico City cannot be believed and properly marveled at until it is seen,” Sharp added. “It is a thing of great beauty.”
“We are concentrating our energy entirely to support the affected and to take part in the solidarity actions taken by the community, civil and public organizations,” the gallery said in a statement announcing the postponement of the show’s opening.
Gallery spokesperson Julia Villaseñor added that the gallery is crafting a relief plan for long-term reconstruction of the affected areas, and in particular for those areas furthest from immediate help.
"In collaboration with concerned artists we have already established contact with organizations that are helping communities in need and will continue with this mission as long as it is needed," Villaseñor said. She said two tons of tents and 2,000 water purification tablets had been gathered for communities who had lost their homes in the Istmo region of Oaxaca, an effort organized with the artist Minerva Cuevas. She noted the gallery's relief efforts—and Mexico's needs—will be ongoing and monitored. But the gallery's original statement perhaps said it best.
It concluded: “Mexico shall overcome and return as strong as ever.”
Ways to help:
2. Amazon has a wishlist for the Mexican Red Cross here.
3. Donate directly to the Red Cross here.
4. This website, “How to Help,” lists the above organizations and others such as UNICEF.
—Anna Louie Sussman