What I Buy and Why: Jéssica Cinel on Running a São Paulo Museum by Day and Building Her Own Collection of Brazilian Art by Night

From her home in São Paulo, the collector told us about the installation that's way too big for her flat, and what's on her wish list.

The collector at home. Work from Jonathas de Andrade's "(Eu, mestiço)" series hangs above her sofa. Courtesy Jéssica Cinel.

What does a museum director have on their walls at home?

To find out, we connected with Brazilian art collector and entrepreneur Jéssica Cinel, who has been the director of São Paulo’s Museu Brasileiro da Escultura e Ecologia since December 2020.

Cinel, who is known in the art world for her sartorial flair, fell in love with collecting after studying international business and Asian contemporary art in London. One of the through lines in her collection, which features artists from Ai Weiwei to Erika Verzutti to Runo Lagomarsino, is work that engages with boundaries—physical, geographical, emotional, and political—reflecting her fundamental belief that art has the power to transcend them.

From her home in São Paulo, the collector spoke with Artnet News about her favorite conceptual artist, the Runo Lagomarsino wall installation that’s too big for her flat, and what’s on her wish list.

In my living room the work by Leda Catunda titled Vestido (Dress) (2018), a very important artist from '80s in Brazil, the work was recently lent to Malba, in Buenos Aires, for the artist show. Leda is represented by Fortes D'loia Gabriel. Courtesy Jéssica Cinel.

Brazilian artist Leda Catunda’s Vestido (Dress) (2018) hangs in Cinel’s living room. She recently lent it to Malba museum in Buenos Aires, for a show featuring the artist’s works. Courtesy of Jéssica Cinel.

What was your first purchase (and how much did you pay for it)?

It was two photographs from the Brazilian artist Lucas Simões, and a series by Marcelo Moscheta called “A line in the Arctic,” dated 2012. It was in 2016, during SP-Arte/Foto in São Paulo. 

What was your most recent purchase?

Thiago Honório’s work Pau-Brasil from Central Galeria. Also a painting from the young Brazilian artist O Bastardo, who has had an amazing life trajectory and career. I had the pleasure of meeting him at his first show at Casa Triângulo and acquired one of his paintings.​

Jessica with a painting by O bastardo from the series "Pretos de Griffe" (2021). Courtesy Jéssica Cinel.

Cinel in front of a painting by O Bastardo, from the series “Pretos de Griffe” (2021). Courtesy of Jéssica Cinel.

Which works or artists are you hoping to add to your collection this year?

I would love to add a work by the conceptual female artist Fernanda Gomes—she is one of my favorites—and also a picture by Mauro Restiffe.

What is the most expensive work of art that you own?

I guess it is an Adriana Varejão from the 2000s, titled Folds, which was previously exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum in the exhibition “Brazil: Body & Soul” in 2001. Also an Ai Weiwei porcelain Vase with Refugee Motif as a Pillar (2017).

Where do you buy art most frequently?

Mostly from primary art galleries, also at art fairs like SP-Arte, Art Basel Miami Beach, and Frieze London. And when there is great opportunity, from secondary market deals or at auctions. 

A view from my dining room, you have the painting by Camile Sproesser, titled The Fall (2019), and on the right a look at Jonathas de Andrade's work. Courtesy Jéssica Cinel.

A view from Cinel’s dining room, featuring a painting by Camile Sproesser, The Fall (2019), and work by Jonathas de Andrade. Courtesy of Jéssica Cinel.

Is there a work you regret purchasing?

Not at all.

What work do you have hanging above your sofa? What about in your bathroom?

Above my sofa I have Jonathas de Andrade, the Brazilian artist representing Brazil at the Venice Biennale this year, from the series “Eu, mestiço.” In my bathroom, I have a cobogó wall [installation] by Irmãos Campana, which is a tribute to the recent environmental disaster in Mariana, Minas Gerais.

What is the most impractical work of art you own?

AMERICAMNESIA (2017), by Runo Lagomarsino. It is an installation of repeated stamps on the wall that say “AmericaAmnesia.” I had to leave it at my parents’ house due to the lack of space in my flat. 

The work above is by Ana Elisa Egreja, titled Banana(A.H.A) (2020), this work was exhibited at a Tomie Ohtake exhibition called "Aglomeração" in 2020. Ana Elisa is represented by Galeria Leme. Below, Adriano Amaral's work, untitled, from 2020. Adriano is represented by Jaqueline Martins. Courtesy Jéssica Cinel.

A work by Ana Elisa Egreja, Banana(A.H.A) (2020), hangs above Adriano Amaral’s untitled, from 2020. Courtesy of Jéssica Cinel.

What work do you wish you had bought when you had the chance?

[Not buying] a painting by the young Brazilian artist Lucas Arruda is one of my biggest regrets. 

If you could steal one work of art without getting caught, what would it be?

A Louise Bourgeois from her current exhibition in London, “The Woven Child,” would be my dream.

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