kurimanzutto was first conceived in the late 1990s in New York by Mónica Manzutto, José Kuri and Gabriel Orozco. They imagined a gallery that could exist nomadically, adapting its form to the spaces needed by specific projects. It was Orozco who first proposed the idea to Mónica and José, pointing out the lack of galleries dedicated to contemporary art in Mexico as well as the lack of institutional support for the up-and-coming generation of young Mexican artists. It was evident that a support structure was needed that would allow these emerging artists to establish their careers within Mexico as well as abroad.
The gallery’s itinerant condition allowed them to organize shows in unconventional places, which in turn freed the artists up to experiment with different kinds of projects. kurimanzutto’s first exhibition, “Market Economy,” opened on August 21, 1999, and remained open to the public for less than 24 hours. In a rented market booth, 13 of the gallery’s artists displayed pieces they created using materials for sale in the market itself. They sold the pieces at prices comparable to the other goods for sale such as kitchen utensils, food, and cleaning supplies.
The flexibility built into kurimanzutto’s structure afforded the gallery many collaborative opportunities: the artists and founders traveled abroad and hosted international artists and curators in Mexico City to develop various projects. They sought to foment conversations between the international and the local, establishing an exchange of ideas that could transcend national borders. This critical and creative dialog has remained an integral part of their working process.
In the early years, most of the artists participated in almost all of the gallery’s exhibitions. While each artist developed an individual practice, they also fed of each other’s work and the participatory dynamic of the gallery. This way of relating gave the artists a sense of belonging and greatly shaped the ethos of kurimanzutto. In the brief span of four years, the gallery realized more than 12 different projects in a variety of locations including a bumper car park at a local fair, a supermarket parking lot, Mónica and José’s apartment, Los Manantiales restaurant in Xochimilco and the shipping container of a semi truck, among many others.
Three years later, it became clear that Mónica and José’s apartment, which, up to this point had functioned as both an office and storage space, was no longer large enough. They decided to buy a storehouse on Juan de la Barrera Street in the Condesa neighborhood, which would serve as an exhibition space, workshop, and studio. The space’s cast concrete brick walls, polished cement floor and galvanized sheet metal roof became the nexus of activity. Above all, it was a new tool at the artists’ disposal.
Nine years after that first opening at the market among flower sellers and piñatas, kurimanzutto inaugurated its current gallery space at calle Gob. Rafael Rebollar 94 in the colonia San Miguel Chapultepec. Built in 1949, the building once housed a lumberyard and later an industrial bakery. The architect Alberto Kalach designed and oversaw the building’s renovation. The bulk of the structure was converted into a large uninterrupted exhibition space, conserving the original wooden ceiling trusses and ample natural light. Rather than being solely a space for viewing and contemplation, kurimanzutto is a meeting place open to criticism and research, welcoming the development of risky projects rarely seen in commercial galleries.