Born in the UK, author and artist Leanora Carrington led a rebellious life, eschewing the expectations placed upon her and fleeing to Mexico City in the mid-20th century after having a breakdown in Spain. It was here she stayed for the rest of her life, becoming an accomplished surrealist artist and sculptor and even muscling her way onto the boy’s club scene of Mexican muralism. Little-known in her birth country, she’s a huge name in Mexico and her art can be found on display in various points across the capital.
Another UK born artist, Stephen Wiltshire is known for his mind-blowing ability to create hugely detailed ink and paint artworks of vast cityscapes from memory, often after having only seen them very briefly. It was this talent that led to him being honoured with an MBE back in 2006. However, in recent months, he came to wider attention in Mexico for drawing a specially commissioned and hugely impressive depiction of the capital city over a five-day period, after observing the city from the air for just 30 minutes beforehand.
Moving across to the European mainland, Barcelona-born Natalia Ibáñez Lario (a self-confessed ‘internet famous’ artist) spreads her time between New York and Mexico City. Known for her exaggerated, narcissistic web persona, she eloquently critiques the very things she propagates online through music videos, GIFs and snapchats. Her preoccupations centre on racial concerns (focusing on the flawed Western standard of white, European beauty), and Mexico City’s streets and galleries often serve as the backdrops and locations, for her many artworks and performance pieces, respectively.
Any hardcore Beat fan knows about Jack Kerouac and any hardcore Kerouac fan knows just how deeply he was influenced and inspired by Mexico. In what is easily his most well-known tome, On The Road, Kerouac namedrops Mexico often and also has two other novels (Mexico City Blues and Tristessa) that are far more obviously influenced by the Mexican capital. While his approach to Mexico was to consider it more of a symbol than something real (according to Jorge García Robles, a Mexican Beat movement editor), the inspiration he took from the place is undeniable.
French designer and businesswoman Vanessa Guckel has been based in Mexico for roughly ten years now, and is the creative director of popular fashion brand CIHUAH. It was in Mexico that she found her creative inspiration and was compelled to start her line, which takes its name from the Nahuatl for ‘women’. Her minimalist, structural designs are often French in feel but recognisably Mexican in inspiration, which has likely helped her become one of the most influential names in Mexican fashion right now.
Another French woman in Mexico City, Gwladys Alonzo is a feminist sculptor driven by a desire to break free from phallic stereotypes surrounding the typically male practice of sculpting. She seeks to repurpose found objects in her work, creating artworks both organic yet heavily influenced by her daily life and surroundings, which project strength and fragility in one fell swoop. Recently she was particularly and fleetingly inspired by the vans of Mexico City (as documented on her Instagram), stating that they’re unlike anything you’d find in her native France.
Chilean-born author extraordinaire Roberto Bolaño is perhaps one of the most famous writers to be influenced by Mexico City, to where he first moved in 1968. A known left-wing activist and later Trotskyist, Bolaño was a journalist as well as a novelist and what is arguably his most famous work, The Savage Detectives, was partly based in and inspired by the Mexican capital. In fact, there are many allusions to locations across Mexico City, some of which still exist today.
The only US-born creative on our list, Jessica Abel is an accomplished and hugely talented graphic novelist who was based in the Mexican capital for two years back in 1998. The work that is most obviously and heavily inspired by this period of expat-living in Mexico City is La Perdida, which was a comic book series (2001-2005) turned graphic novel (2006). Centring on a Chicana protagonist who moves to Mexico City to get better acquainted with her heritage, much of the dialogue is Spanish.