Emilio Botín, Spanish Arts Patron, 1934–2014

Emilio Botín in Santander Photo via: Fundación Botín
Emilio Botín in Santander Photo via: Fundación Botín

Emilio Botín, chairman of the Banco Santander and major arts patron, died of a heart attack at age 79 on Tuesday night in his Madrid house. The company announced Botín’s death on Wednesday morning and its plans to hold a board meeting today to appoint a new chairman.

Botín, the third-generation president of the Banco Santander dynasty, turned his family’s regional bank into Spain’s leading banking force and one of the largest banks in the Eurozone. Nick Anderson, an analyst at Berenberg Bank, called Mr. Botín “a legendary character…[and] a phenomenal deal maker” whose passing marked “the end of an era.” the Wall Street Journal reports.

But he was also highly respected for his tireless support of contemporary art through the Fundación Botín, which was created in 1964 by his uncle Marcelino Botín and has become a key player in the Spanish art landscape. The foundation is currently building a $106 million art center in Santander, which will open its doors in 2015 (“$106 Million Art Center Rises in Spain”). Designed by Centre Pompidou and new Whitney architect Renzo Piano, it is, at the moment, the largest private cultural investment in the country.

The foundation has built a strong collection of well-known artists, including Juan Muñoz, Julião Sarmento, Tacita Dean, Gabriel Orozco, and Jannis Kounellis. It is also behind a generous program of grants supporting emerging Spanish artists and curators.

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