“Buying Is Not Enough; One Must Participate”
12 Jun 2018, 11:58 am
By Luciana Pareja Norbiato
Journalist and art critic
A collector is, by nature, someone with a passion for accumulating. Those interested in art, however, enter a sensitive domain, where it is not enough to collect as many pieces of art as possible, nor simply to make sure the purchase of a new item is profitable from a financial point of view. Those who create a collection end up being involved with the objects of their desire to such an extent that, almost inevitably, they are no longer mere spectators and take on an active attitude within this universe, becoming an essential link for the artistic production of their time. Furthermore, they become the guardians of a piece of human history and sensitivity. Since the Medicis, patrons who transformed Florence into the capital city of the Renaissance, and later the Guggenheims, who eternalized their collection in the famous museums with their name, the owners of private collections create partnerships, promote exhibitions and help institutions and artist all over the world.
“Art collectors definitely must have social responsibility, even by sponsoring cultural institutions, as well as initiatives to support education, cultural education for artists, seminars, etc.”, advocates Frances Reynolds (entrepreneur and collector), herself an example of that mindset. With a successful career in the business, the Argentinean entrepreneur started her to collect art in New York, in the mid-1980s. Following the example of the Brazilian collector, Cleusa Garfinkel, she started with primitive art. “In the late 1980s, I started to research Latin-American contemporary art, as my friends who are interested in art spoke well of Brazil. One of the first Brazilian names that attracted my attention was Tunga.” It is a taste she also shares with Garfinkel, owner of a small but significant sampling of the artist’s works.
Following the advice of her curator Paulo Herkenhoff, as well as that of gallery owner Marcantônio Vilaça, her “mentors in the beginning”, in 1994, in Madrid, Reynolds founded the Arte Viva Foundation, and in 1998, the Inclusartiz Institute, in Rio de Janeiro. By means of the latter, the collector started to organize foreign artist residencies in Brazil, such as Swiss uber-curator Hans Ulrich Obrist and British artist Christopher Page. Page had one of his works exhibited from December, 2017 to February, 2018 at the Rio MAM (Museum of Modern Art), during his stay in town. Between the production of mega-exhibitions (such as “From Picasso to Barceló”, which brought more than one hundred pieces of art from the Reina Sofía Museum in Spain to the São Paulo State Art Gallery in 2001) and her work as a member of the advisory board of institutions as different from each other as the MoMA (NY) and the Capacete gallery (Rio), among others, Reynolds rules out the creation of a public space to exhibit her collection – nor will she reveal the number of works in it. She prefers to assist existing institutions, such as the Delfina Foundation, with which she collaborates to sponsor Brazilian artists for residencies. “Delfina is an entity that integrates, always inviting people to get acquainted with the works of guest artists, curators and collectors.”
Collecting as Practice
One of these guests is Pedro Barbosa (collector), who left the financial market to fully dedicate himself to collecting, which he began to do in 1999. He was one of the guests at the premiere of Delfina’s new program, dealing with the activity of collecting, Collecting as a Practice, in 2017. “CAP promotes interaction with the residency spaces, as collectors are not usually acquainted with this type of environment. You take part, you see how the residency is managed, how the works are chosen, you coexist with those who are also there, you try to understand this process”, he said. Even working in partnership to send Brazilian artists to residencies at the Delfina and others of the same kind, including artists such as Maria Thereza Alves and Jimmie Durham in Europe, in addition an apartment in Rua Gabriel Monteiro da Silva, where foreign artists and curators stay, Barbosa had never been in a residency space before, especially not in the company of artists who work over collections, in addition to the institution’s curators.
“The collectors-in-residence is one part of a broader investigation into the practice within the thematic program. It tries to raise issues that are urgent to both artists and collectors, about the philosophy, psychology and politics of collecting,” explains Aaron Cezar, project coordinator. In addition to the joint residency, the CAP promotes lectures, workshops, exhibitions and performances all year round. The idea is to show that the role of the collector nowadays goes way beyond ‘fueling’ the art market”. “I hope this inspires others to consider the social rather than only the financial value of artworks. All our resident collectors support, commission and adhere to intellectual ideas – we need more collectors that understand their critical role in this context”, he added.
Even though he declares himself a “capitalist without a social role”, which role he believes is the jurisdiction of public institutions, Pedro Barbosa is an articulator of art. Considering both the residencies where he fosters contact between different art agents and the direction he set for his collection four years ago, when he started looking for archive materials instead of actual artworks. “Nowadays, I have a lot more interest in ephemera (printed or handwritten literature that were not produced as long-term collectibles) than in works of art. The historical role of art has been a lot more challenging to me,” he states. Hoarding a considerable archive of invitations, rare artist magazines, catalogs, photos, price lists, audio and video recordings, etc., he hopes to recreate the history of certain artistic periods, especially that of conceptual art, North-American dance and music in the 1960s-70s. “I want to reach academic world and I want art researchers to use this material as a reference”, he asserted.
Helping is what moves entrepreneur Cleusa Garfinkel, who also believes in a more discrete positioning within the area, without assuming the role of a protagonist. “The collector’s role is not only to collect, but to engage themselves in a range of actions”, she argues. The São Paulo citizen, who started purchasing her first works of art in the 1970s, is currently one of the largest collectors in Brazil, and one of the most renowned, too, for the enormous support she provides to cultural institutions by means of donations. MAM-SP, Pinacoteca, MoMA and MAR are some of the museums that have received donations from the businesswoman. Cleusa’s dedication has recently helped to recover the management of MuBE (Brazilian Sculpture and Ecology Museum).
Her supporting activities at fairs and institutions is not limited to Brazil, however. “I’m very engaged with the Beyeler Foundation in Switzerland; I’m a member of Ifema, the Arco Madri organization, and Art Basel Miami. I’m involved with fairs and I attend practically all of them. I always try to attend the events, and to be attentive to help as I can.” With a collection that comprises approximately 700 works, Cleusa is making plans for the future. “I am considering the incorporation of a foundation, with my collection, to allow the general public to have access to these works. It’s an idea I’m still playing with. Everything comes from an idea.”
Published at the first edition of SP-Arte Magazine, on April 2018.