Manuela Mozo’s life has come full circle. The daughter of artists who fled political unrest in Argentina to the U.S. in 1973, she understands the importance of letting creatives work freely. The 44-year-old now stands in an influential position to promote artists from all over the world as the executive director of Untitled, the annual art fair that launched in Miami Beach in 2012 that will unveil its sophomore show in San Francisco at the Palace of Fine Arts on January 12.
“Untitled is a unique model in itself,” says Mozo, who came on board last July. “We strive to be really international. For example, in San Francisco we have nine different countries with 19 different cities.”
Among the 47 exhibitors expected there are Spain’s Galería Aural, which will present pioneering Brazilian artist Anna Bella Geiger, and the non-profit Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco, which will enable Justin Hoover to project an interactive video on the Palace of Fine Arts’ Greco-Roman façade.
“There’s a lot of people finding new voices,” Mozo says. “We can facilitate bringing that to the wider public.”
Mozo’s learned to develop her voice in the arts. She spent her early childhood exploring the Guggenheim and Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. After studying the Renaissance and northern European 16th-century art in Italy, and contemporary art theory at NYU, she clocked almost two decades working with Cindy Sherman, Louise Lawler, Jim Shaw, Mike Kelley and other artists at Skarstedt Gallery, Metro Pictures and Simon Lee Gallery. She oversees Untitled from New York, where she lives with her partner, Derrick Hilbertz, an operations manager at an arts-centric logistics company, and their daughter. In her spare time, she pores over books, veering toward political commentary and works by novelists such as Margaret Atwood, Haruki Murakami and Jane Mayer.
“I’m interested in understanding how we are here politically and how that forms the artistic direction that artists take,” she says.
Mozo’s long been a proponent of the creative process. Consider her advocacy of Sarah Crowner’s vision to build a white tile floor complementing the New York-based artist’s first exhibition of colorful abstract paintings in Simon Lee’s London space in 2016. “It turned out to be a huge success,” recalls Crowner, who believes Mozo will do right by the participants at Untitled. “Art fairs are notoriously tough for artists because we can’t really control how the work is lit and what is shown next to it,” she says. “[Mozo] knows those concerns are important to us.”
Plus, with initiatives such as a panel educating Google employees on what it means to be patrons, Mozo can be a convincing ambassador to the tech sector. “Everybody is hoping that of all of the tech-world money, some of it will come to the art world,” says Metro Pictures cofounder Janelle Reiring.
Beyond Silicon Valley, Mozo is eager to visit galleries in Portugal and Romania as well as regional exhibitions, including FRONT International in Cleveland, Ohio, and Prospect New Orleans. “I definitely want to grow the representation of L.A. galleries in San Francisco,” she adds. “There is so much interesting art around the world right now.”