Mexico City, Through the Eyes of a Big-Shot Gallery Owner

Patricia Ortiz Monasterio, the co-founder of Galería OMR, a 32-year-old contemporary art gallery in the Roma District in Mexico City, on the new wave of artists

“The Roma district is near the historical center. It’s a sector of the city that was developed in the early 20th century with grand houses. The bourgeois of the time was living here.

See all in “The Next Great Art Cities.”

When we moved here it was 1984, and the area was just getting started. There were no galleries, very few restaurants, and we decided to invest. We were certain it had to grow. There were so many wonderful buildings—the homes have such generous spaces—that it had to become something special.

About a year and a half after we moved, this area was badly hit by a big earthquake. A lot of the houses were abandoned. Now people are moving back and restoring the houses. Our house wasn’t damaged at all—it has a basement—but it took a good 10 years for the area to recuperate from the earthquake.

It’s really nice area, full of restaurants and cafes. It’s about 15 x 15 blocks, with four parks and good avenues with wonderful trees. It’s one of the few areas in the city that’s walkable. Every other Saturday and Sunday they do a small market outside of the gallery that sells organic produce and attracts young people.

We have different kinds of collectors. There are the very serious collectors who are investing in good and perhaps more expensive art, and then there are people who love the art and would buy perhaps one piece a year of well-priced art. And there are people who would buy in installments. In order to reach the public you have to offer the option to pay in installments. It’s like everywhere—it’s not like most people in Mexico buy art, but there is a good market.

We work with contemporary artists, both Mexican and international. We were very contemporary in the 1980s and has time has moved on, we’ve kept our program contemporary with artists who’ve started working in the 90s and 2000s.

A number of the artists that we work with have come from an architectural background, like sculptor Jose Davila and mixed media artist Jorge Méndez Blake. Their aesthetic takes the same approach one would with design. It’s very clean.

Now we’re making the change for the next generation, and our son is taking charge. He’s very interested in artists who work with a social conscience, such as Raul Cardenas. It has to be beautiful and meaningful and have a social responsibility in mind. It’s very up to date. It’s very much what we believe we should be doing. It’s great for us to see that the gallery isn’t growing old. It’s incorporating new ideas and new artists.”

Kayleen Schaefer is a journalist and author of Text Me When You Get Home, which was widely praised as “witty,” “timely, nimble, essential” and more, by outlets such as ELLE, The Washington Post, New York Times, NPR, BuzzFeed and many others. She also wrote the bestselling Kindle Single memoir Fade Out. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Vogue, and many other publications. Her new book, But You’re Still So Young, is out now. She lives in New York City.