Brett W. Schultz (b. Chicago, 1978) is Co-Founder and Co-Director of the gallery Yautepec in Mexico City as well as Creative Director of Material Art Fair, also in Mexico City. He received his BA cum laude in International Relations from the University of Southern California and his Master’s degree from the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
His projects have appeared across a wide variety of international publications, including Artforum, Frieze, Art Review, BOMB, Art+Auction, L’Officiel Art, Flash Art, The Paris Review and the New York Times, among others.
He lives and works in Mexico City.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I grew up just north of Chicago, went to school in Los Angeles and later New York, then finally found myself in Mexico City. About six months after arriving, I began Yautepec with my then-girlfriend and still-business partner Daniela Elbahara. Not so long ago we decided to start a new art fair here, which resulted in the first edition of Material Art Fair last February. I also have a band called Soledad and a German Shepherd named Chía.
How has living in Mexico City affected your work? Speaking to the foreigner experience here, I think Mexico City is good for really driven people, everyone else just passes through. There’s a lot to frustrate you and it can keep you hungry for a long time but there is amazing opportunity here. I’ve accomplished a lot that I honestly can’t imagine having pulled off in the other cities in which I’ve lived, but it’s taken a long time and a lot of patience.
I think it’s the rare case that someone just arrives in Mexico City and finds instant success—although I can think of a couple cases—but I think that’s ultimately a good thing. You have to fight for it.
Also, as a foreigner, you learn quickly that you are and will always be an outsider here and that there are a lot of old networks and relationships that reward their own. I think attitudes are shifting now, especially among the younger generations, and people are opening up in a lot of ways. But regardless, all you can do is keep at it, keep proving people wrong till they start to take you seriously, and make sure your crew is hard as fuck.
What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? I think more than anything, the artist and curator-run spaces here in Mexico have been a huge influence on me. Project spaces like Lodos Contemporáneo, Lulu, NO Space, Bikini Wax, Parallel Oaxaca and Preteen all have exciting, serious programs that constantly make me want to try harder.
Yautepec started that same way—essentially as a project space—but somewhere along the road I think we lost sight of what it was that made our proposal interesting and our program started to slip because we misplaced our priorities. Over the last couple years, we’ve come back strong, defined our focus and really embraced our position in Mexico City’s contemporary art scene.
What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? Right now, we’re full on preparing the next edition of Material for February, which is shaping up super well. We had a lot of positive international press and word-of-mouth around the first one, but I think we’re really going to put the fair on the map with this second edition. Daniela and I are also getting everything together for a busy fall and winter for Yautepec, there’s a lot coming up, really exciting things for all of our artists.
I’m also getting ready to record Soledad’s third record and start playing out again after almost a year off the stage.
If you were a drink what drink would you be? I’d be a carajillo. Coffee and booze, together forever.
How did your interest in your work begin? In terms of being gallerists, neither Daniela nor I necessarily had the intention of starting a commercial gallery when we started Yautepec. Then came the moment when we had to decide whether or not to go that route and I think we both realized there was nothing we’d rather be doing. It’s an endlessly rewarding way to eke out something kind of resembling a living.
In terms of music, I’ve been playing guitar since I was eight and in bands since I was 17 or 18. I think at one point I realized I was never going to be a technically good guitar player but that I had a certain style that was maybe interesting, so I went with that.
Who would you ideally like to collaborate with? Too many artists to count. It’s just hard for us to put on more than five exhibitions a year at this point. But the incredible thing about the fair is how it allows us to work closely with so many galleries and project spaces we respect and admire and consequently with their artists as well.
How long have you lived in Mexico City and what brought you there? I’ve been here for more than seven years now. Funnily enough, I had met Daniela in New York at a launch party for the Mexican artist Carlos Amorales’s record label, “Nuevos Ricos,” at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise back in the Meatpacking days. Daniela is Mexican, from Monterrey, and had to come back to Mexico once her visa was up. I was pretty tired of New York already so I decided to join her and we chose Mexico City. We broke up several years back but we make good business partners.
What’s your absolute favorite place in the city to be? Wherever my ass may land with a taco in one hand and a beer in the other.
What are you really excited about right now? I got overly excited about this roll of Dartek plastic I got to wrap up paintings. It’s pretty good stuff.
That, and our artists taking shit over in 2015.
What were you like in high school? I started fat and ended skinny. I played Magic: The Gathering and went to a lot of hardcore shows.