A Cheesemaker’s Unbelievable Collection of 120,000 Artworks and Pieces of Ephemera Will Be Sold to the Spanish State

The deal has been approved by the Spanish Ministry of Culture, although the price tag has yet to be set.

Collector Jose Maria Lafuente. Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Europa Press via Getty Images.
Collector Jose Maria Lafuente. Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Europa Press via Getty Images.

Spain is buying the Archivo Lafuente, a 120,000-piece collection of avant-garde objects and artworks amassed by José María Lafuente, a Spanish cheesemaker and businessman, since the 1990s.

“It is a private archive with a public vocation,” Lafuente, who made his fortune selling mozzarella and other cheeses to a chain of Spanish grocery stores, told El País. “And the time has come for the transfer to the hands of the state. This is the moment.”

The deal has been approved by the Spanish Ministry of Culture, but a final price tag has yet to be determined. The only confirmed point of agreement is that the government won’t pay the full price based on the collection’s value.

“If we had to pay what those pieces are worth, there would be no money left in the general state budgets,” Miquel Iceta, Spain’s minister of culture, told El País.

Julio Campal, <em>Caligrama</em>. Photo courtesy of the Lafuente Archive.

Julio Campal, Caligrama. Photo courtesy of the Lafuente Archive.

Once arrangements are finalized, the collection, which includes 19,000 artworks, will fall under the care of the Reina Sofía in Madrid, reports ARTnews. The museum’s board of trustees had previously approved the acquisition, which is the largest in the institution’s history.

The archive is currently housed in Lafuente’s cheese factory in Heras, just outside the northern coastal city of Santander. Selections from the collection are currently on view at the Palacete del Embarcadero building in Santander. The plan is for a permanent exhibition space for the archive in the city.

Collector Jose Maria Lafuente; designer Javier Mariscal and Port Authority President Francisco Martin on their arrival at an exhibition of the Lafuente Archive at the Palacete del Embarcadero, on February 15, 2022 in Santander, Cantabria, Spain. Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Europa Press via Getty Images.

Collector Jose Maria Lafuente, left, with designer Javier Mariscal and Port Authority president Francisco Martin on February 15, 2022 in Santander, Cantabria, Spain. Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Europa Press via Getty Images.

Lafuente bought his first artwork, a screen print by Eduardo Arroyo, in 1992. His holdings include Cantabrian and Spanish artists like Maruja Mallo and Eduardo Westerdahl, plus a broader selection of documents and materials related to 20th-century avant-garde literary and artistic movements from Europe and Latin America.

There are letters, sketches, old exhibition catalogues, fanzines, posters, and other ephemera. Together, the works help provide context for the artists and the environments in which they produced their work.


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