Having built its fortune by leading the commercial banking and financial services company Banco Santander, both in Europe and abroad, the Botín family has cemented its reputation among Spain’s most important collectors and bankers. The ancestors of the Botín family founded the bank in 1857 and it has been run by the family in the generations since then. Emilio Botín, who was the executive chairman of Grupo Santander from 1986 until his death in 2014, laid the groundwork for some of the family’s most recent developments. His daughter, Ana Patricia, the eldest of his six children, took over after his death. She had been the chief executive of Santander, the bank’s British arm, since 2010, and was the first woman to hold that post for a major bank in Britain, according to the Guardian.
The Fundación Botín, which began collecting art in 1993 as part of its arts philanthropy, opened the Centro Botín, a 33,743-square-foot, Renzo Piano–designed private museum, in Santander, Spain, in 2017. Amassed over the past 25 years, the collection specializes in contemporary art and paintings, sculptures, drawings, videos, and photography by international artists such as Joan Jonas, Carlos Garaicoa, Mona Hatoum, Jannis Kounellis, Gabriel Orozco, and Miroslaw Balka. “Together they form a plural mosaic of concepts and trajectories that, through their generational differences and disparate positions, provide a testimonial to art in the present day,” states the collection’s mission page. In addition to its holdings, which also includes large-scale works by Carsten Höller and Julie Mehretu, the arts center features spectacular views of the Bay of Santander.
The same year that museum opened, it was announced that Jaime Botín, brother of Emilio and uncle of Ana Patricia, would stand trial for allegedly trying to smuggle a Picasso portrait (worth approximately $27.4 million) that had been declared a cultural treasure by the Spanish Nation Court in May 2015 and barred from export. Authorities found the portrait, 1906’s Head of a Young Woman, in Botín’s yacht docked off the coast of the French island of Corsica. He was indicted in 2017 on art trafficking charges. In 2020, he was fined €91.7 million ($101.2 million) and sentenced to three years in prison, though he was able to avoid time behind bars because of an “incurable illness.” He later “decided” to show the Picasso work at the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid after it was barred from exportation.
Meanwhile, in 2022, Paloma Botín, the niece of Jaime, was investigated in Spain in connection with a centuries-old statue of an Iberian lioness that authorities said was looted. A court determined that she had purchased the work in “good faith.”