While its home base is Mexico City, cultural institution Masa Galería is at its core a nomadic platform. Launched in February 2019 to wide acclaim, the roving gallery, which showcases collectible design and art, is the brainchild of founders Héctor Esrawe, Brain Thoreen, Isaac Bissu, Age Salajõe, Cristobal Riestra and Roberto Diaz. Since its genesis, Masa has held two exhibitions. Its third, titled Recover/Uncover, had been open a little over a month when, on 14 March, the host space closed due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Coincidentally, the focus of the exhibition is poetically relevant in light of the pandemic: objects framed as tools for ‘living, contemplation and, most of all, reconciliation’ – ones that exist along a ‘spectrum of indeterminates rather than at a statis’. We may be in a physical stasis, but what is the time humankind exists in now, if not wholly indeterminate? Indeed we are having to learn how to live, contemplate and reconcile our expectations and relationships in a seemingly surreal context.

Héctor Esrawe. Portrait: Ana Hop


Such is certainly the endeavour of Esrawe, who is not only a co-founder of Masa but the founder of his eponymous design practice Esrawe Studio. Projects have been put on hold, others cancelled altogether. ‘I – and many colleagues of mine – have big anxiety about the months to come,’ he explains. ‘We’re worried about the economic impact, which seems will be really strong in the world. In Mexico and third-world countries it will create a deep recession.’

We are designers – we love what we do, and will always be designers no matter what the circumstances or context

Yet life and work continues. ‘So far we have managed to operate from home,’ he explains. ‘Through different conference apps, we stay organized with each other, our colleagues and clients. At the end of the day, it’s working: the team has committed to make it work.’  Days have been spent discussing how to embrace this time. Top of mind, rightfully, is ensuring the preservation of jobs – not only for the immediate team, but the small workshops and artisanal studios they work with too. ‘We can be neither pessimistic nor romantic about it – we need to be pragmatic, intuitive, informed and responsible – and, if one thing’s for sure, to take a path of action and understand our mission.’ Adversity brings opportunity, he believes, and to benefit from that the design community needs to take in all the possible lessons of this time as professionals, ‘but mostly as human beings’. ‘Understanding a new reality, we are strategizing how to reinvent ourselves. We are designers – we love what we do, and will always be designers no matter what the circumstances or context.’

Top to bottom: Esrawe's Grids, Shifting Parabola and Paralela Catenaria, all part of Masa Galería's Recover/Uncover exhibition. Photos: Genevieve Lutkin and Pablo da Ronco

The collaborators behind Masa Galería are now planning the next shows in their pipeline – most relevant being an exhibition slated to hit New York City in October, although it may be postponed until the early months of 2021 depending on the progression of the pandemic. There are two more local shows in mind for Mexico City, one in the works for later this year and another in February of the next. Of course with the obvious limitations of running a gallery whilst a majority of the world is in quarantine, survival means thinking online, too. ‘We are organizing virtual tours and our partner Age Salajõe is creating a video of the Recover/Uncover exhibition. Being digital plays a major role during this crisis – but we will need to also work on conceptually different approaches.’  Prior, Masa had already been brainstorming innovative means of generating content digitally. ‘Now the need to do it that way is clear.’

We can’t be the biggest virus – we need to do something about it

Esrawe insists that despite the uncertainty, there are positives in these circumstances. ‘We have learned to be more patient, to be empathetic with each other as community and society in general,’ he reflects. ‘We understand more the impact we have imprinted on the world and are becoming increasingly aware of it. Our absence as a species is healing the environment and the message is clear: we can’t be the biggest virus – we need to do something about it.’