High Above Mexico City, a ‘One-Wall Gallery Without Doors’ Gets to Work

Tillmans's work on view at Sonora 128.OMAR LUIS OLGUIN/SONORA 128

Wolfgang Tillmans’s work on view at Sonora 128.


For the past few months, a rather mysterious photograph has adorned a billboard atop a building in Mexico City’s Condesa neighborhood. It shows, in front of a lush, green forest, an oddly spotlit cactus, which just might be floating, alongside two Spanish words, spelled out in large green letters: ¿dónde estamos?—“where are we?”

This is a work by the German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans (a fairly unusual one for him, given that text), and it is the debut show for a new exhibition space called Sonora 128—the address of the building—that is “a one-wall gallery without doors,” Bree Zucker, who organizes the displays, said in a phone interview.

The powerhouse Mexico City gallery Kurimanzutto, where Zucker works, is behind the project, though the plan is only to show artists not represented by the dealers. The Tillmans is up through May 31 and then a work by the veteran Colombian conceptual artist Antonio Caro will be pasted up on June 1 for another three-month run. Daido Moriyama and Nobuyoshi Araki are on tap after that.

How did it all come about? When Zucker moved to the city a few years ago, she was disheartened by how compartmentalized and private various groups of artists were, and so, she told me, “I was thinking, how can we create a space where everyone is going to intersect whether they like it or not? So that’s how the billboard came to be. The billboard is an open space, it’s a public space, it’s at this intersection where absolutely everyone passes through.” (One might think of Broadway-Lafayette as a New York analogue, she proposed.)

Tillmans by night.OMAR LUIS OLGUIN/SONORA 128

Tillmans by night.


A bit of luck was involved. “I was walking down the street one day and I saw this empty billboard, and it hit me like a lightbulb that this was something that would be interesting to do,” Zucker said. Another inspiration: Kurimanzutto’s history of doing shows and performances all over town in its early years. (It now operates out of an elegant, sprawling hacienda-like building.) “I was thinking very much again about how to remake or renew or continue on this energy from the past,” she said.

The peculiar Tillmans photo, Zucker suggested, in a way links up with the artist’s new campaign against Brexit in that it is so directly asking viewers—as individuals, as members of a capital city, as a larger country, or even as an entire civilization—to pause for a moment and consider the state of things. Not that everyone is easily able to do that. “I’ve totally had people say, ‘I’ve gone there and nothing was there’ ” Zucker said, laughing, and I’m like, “Did you look up?” In fairness, if all you have is an address, it’s a touch confusing!

Bigger plans are in the offing for Sonora 128. The billboard overlooks the tranquil, wooded Parque España, and there’s talk of hosting events, like discussions, there in the future. The location also means that some very special viewers are getting a chance to enjoy the artwork. “Since it borders the park, I like to joke that even dogs are seeing it,” Zucker said.

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