Four museums in the United States and one museum in Peru will receive parts of a 119-work donation consisting of Latin American colonial art from the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, which was created by ARTnews Top 200 Collectors Patricia Phelps de Cisneros and Gustavo A. Cisneros in the 1970s. The donation comprises a mix of gifts and pledged gifts, some of which are already at museums, a few of which will be delivered later this month, and the rest of which will be delivered to their respective institutions after the conclusion of a traveling exhibition, “Power & Piety: Spanish Colonial Art for the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros,” in 2020.
The Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas, will receive the lion’s share of the donation—which features art made between the 17th and 19th centuries—with a total of 83 works, primarily paintings and furniture. The gift will form the foundation of a collection of colonial and republic art from the period.
The Denver Museum of Art, which holds the largest collection of colonial art from Latin America in the United States, will receive a total of 25 works produced in Venezuela and the Caribbean.
The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston will receive seven works, a mix of silver, furniture, and paintings that have been on long-term loan to the museum since 2010, as well as two more gifts that are part of the “Power & Piety” show.
The Hispanic Society Museum & Library in New York will get Antonio Mateo de Los Reyes’s Armchair for the Brotherhood of San Pedro, a golden piece of furniture from 1775 that once held a life-size statue of St. Peter.
The Museo de Arte de Lima in Peru will receive Jose Gil de Castro y Morales’s Portrait of Don Juan Francisco de Izcué y Sáez Texada (1834).
“Gustavo and I have always considered ourselves to be temporary custodians of the objects in our care,” Cisneros told ARTnews. “[We] decided that the collection would be best represented by being divided among different institutions. We looked at each museum’s existing collections and areas of interest, and chose works that we felt would deepen their collections.”
The couple, who also donated 102 works of Latin American modernist art to the Museum of Modern Art in New York and whose collection of concrete Brazilian and Argentine art will be the subject of a major exhibition at the Getty Center in September as part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, first began collecting colonial art from Latin America in the mid-1990s. Cisneros said they first thought of it more as “a personal collection” than as part of their main collection of modern and contemporary art. (Their collecting interests now also include the work of 19th-century traveler artists in Latin America and Amazonian ethnographic objects.)
“Over time we came to understand how colonial art is part of a broader history of Latin American and global history, and that it sheds light on a key moment in the formation of Latin American nations and political identity,” said Cisneros, who has dedicated resources and energy over the past 40 years to further scholarship and understanding of artistic production from Latin America.
She attributed the inspiration for the gift to a “defining moment” when seeing colonial works from the collection displayed alongside American colonial objects in the American Wing of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The juxtaposition could help visitors “understand similarities and differences between the colonial processes in North and South America,” she said.
“People tend to think that Latin American art is something recent,” Cisneros added. “More scholars are now looking to the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries to round out that history. In the colonial period, Latin America was a crucial intermediary between Europe and Asia, and it makes sense to understand it within this global framework.”