In Mexico City, MASA Galeria Makes a Permanent Home

The beloved nomadic gallery puts down roots in one of Mexico City’s most famous party houses.

Photography by Alejandro Ramirez Orozco

In 1936, the arts patron and publicist Federico Sánchez Fogerty and his wife Magda initiated a series of parties in their home, known as the Red Palace of Tacubaya for its sanguine color scheme. Everyone in Mexico City who was, or longed to be, anyone—poets, politicians, artists, critics—would scramble for an invite to bashes like the Empire of Illusion, the Great Saturdays, or the Teas Crazy. These festivities, which came to be known as the Parties of Third Empire, went on through the 1970s. They established the 6,450-square-foot colonial house as an epicenter of Mexico City’s cultural movements through the 20th century. 

This year, the house once again becomes a home for cultural innovation as the first permanent location for MASA Galeria. Founded in 2018 by a quintet of creative forces including Héctor Esrawe, Age Salajõe, Brian Thoreen, Isaac Bissu, and Roberto Diaz, the gallery is known for shows that form cracks in the walls between art and design, in spaces that expand ideas of what and where a gallery might be. From early shows in neglected mansions to a beguiling group outing curator Su Wu installed in a ghostly post office deep in the belly of Rockefeller Center, MASA eschews the typical white box. (Unless it belongs to Sotheby’s, who showed eight of their artists in the East Hampton gallery last summer.)

Photography by Alejandro Ramirez Orozco

MASA began looking for something stable in 2022. “The search took a little bit of time,” Salajõe tells Surface. But the gallery was familiar with the legendary Third Empire location: “It was filled with personalities, particularly those who contributed to the making of modern Mexico in the fields of the visual arts, literature, architecture, advertising, and industry.” It also featured vast corridors and soaring 16-foot-tall ceilings. “The historic aspect of the space was relevant for us,” she says, “but also its original features were playing an important role.” 

A pair of shows inaugurate the new space. Brian Thoreen’s “Non-Zero-Sum” offers monumental raw cast beeswax candles, ribbons of rubber piled into tables, lighter-than-air seating crafted of two tones of neoprene, and charcoal-on-paper landscapes of binary code. Mario García Torres pays tribute to Bruce Nauman with A Cast of the Space Under My Chair (2022), which enlists the titular process Nauman used to make his famously unusable stool, and the same name, to create a coated aluminum task chair that’s ready for business. For The Work I Painted This Monochrome While Repeatedly Listening to Gasolina by Daddy Yankee, he attached LEDs to canvas in a sort of duet with the reggaeton classic, perhaps turning the frames into mute speaker enclosures, or a light show viewed from miles away.

Photography by Alejandro Ramirez Orozco

And while the hordes of art aficionados Fogerty would’ve surely courted will show up from thousands of miles away when MASA opens in time for Latin American art fair Zona Maco, these first shows by two of Mexico’s brightest assert the gallery’s devotion to the country it finally permanently calls home. And with a new home as notorious as this, we can’t wait to see the parties. 

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