Ella Fontanals-Cisneros Is Giving Part of Her Latin American Art Collection to Build a New Madrid Museum

The news was announced during the opening days of ARCOmadrid.

Íñigo Méndez de Vigo and Ella Fontanals-Cisneros during the signing of the preliminary agreement. Photo courtesy of the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sport
Íñigo Méndez de Vigo and Ella Fontanals-Cisneros during the signing of the preliminary agreement. Photo courtesy of the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sport.

Ella Fontanals-Cisneros, founder of the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (CIFO), will donate works from her private Latin American art collection to Spain. The partnership with Spain’s Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sport—announced yesterday during the ARCOmadrid fair—boosts Madrid’s profile as the capital of Latin American art in Europe.

While it is yet to be revealed how many of her works are heading to the city, Fontanals-Cisneros’s collection will be showcased in a dedicated exhibition space in the Tabacalera building, a former tobacco factory that is due to reopen as an art center at the end of 2020. All told, the venue will host more than 50,000 square feet of exhibition space, including galleries for temporary exhibitions organized by the Museo Reina Sofía.

Known for its preeminent holdings of Latin American art, the Fontanals-Cisneros collection includes more than 3,000 works by artists including Carmen Herrera, Cildo Meireles, and Grete Stern. The collection is particularly strong in Cuban art and video art. The forthcoming Madrid venue will also showcase video works donated by Manuel de Santaren, the president of CIFO.

“I feel very happy because I’ve spent time thinking that the collection would need a home—a home that the public could access—to all of this Latin American art that I’ve spent a long time collecting,” Fontanals-Cisneros said at a press conference yesterday. “For me, Spain is a second home.”

The announcement follows news that CIFO will close its Miami exhibition space, which opened in 2005, come April. The Centro Cultural Metropolitano in Quito, Ecuador, will host the organization’s annual exhibition of works by awardees of its grants and commissions program this year.

Ella Fontanals-Cisneros. Photo courtesy of the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation.

Ella Fontanals-Cisneros. Photo courtesy of the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation.

Some collectors and dealers in Spain have had a lukewarm response to the news of CIFO’s arrival, wondering why the Tabacalera project is so focused on promoting Latin American art over Spanish artists.

According to the official announcement, the new museum aims to “promote the research of Latin American culture and artistic heritage, as well as the strategic positioning of Spain as a cultural bridge between Europe and Latin America.”

CIFO’s new initiative comes weeks after another Latin American collection, the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection, donated 39 works by Latin American artists to the Museo Reina Sofía, further beefing up Madrid’s holdings of art from the region.

Latin American collectors were also a visible presence at this year’s ARCOmadrid fair, open through February 25. Among them was Miami-based real estate developer Jorge M. Pérez, who said he had already bought more than 20 works by Spanish, Cuban, and other Latin American artists by 2 p.m. on Thursday.

Augusto Arbizo of New York’s Van Doren Waxter, a first-time exhibitor, said the gallery had sold more than a dozen works from its two-person booth of Brazilian artist Caetano de Almeida and Madrid painter Jeronimo Elespe to buyers from Spain, Venezuela, and the US by Thursday.

The controversy over a censored work by the artist Santiago Sierra has only partially overshadowed the strong sales reported in the fair’s early days. IFEMA, the government-funded body that asked a gallery to remove the display, published a statement apologizing on Thursday.

Amid the uproar, Sierra’s dealer Helga de Alvear found time to do some shopping of her own. She bought Dan Graham’s Pavilion For Showing Rock Videos/Films (Design I) (2012), priced at $500,000, from Hauser & Wirth‘s stand at the fair.


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