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Top 200 Collectors

Patricia Phelps de Cisneros and Gustavo

Patricia Phelps de Cisneros and Gustavo A. Cisneros

Caracas, Venezuela; Madrid; New York

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19th-century traveler artists to Latin America; colonial art and objects from Latin America; Amazonian ethnographic objects; Contemporary Latin American art; Modern Latin American art

Overview

The owners of an international conglomerate, Patricia Phelps de Cisneros and Gustavo A. Cisneros have been collecting since 1970, and have appeared in every edition of the Top 200 list since 1990. Among those with works in their holdings are some of Latin America’s most important artists of all time, including Lygia Clark, Gego, Raúl Lozza, Hélio Oiticica, Jesús Rafael Soto, and Rhod Rothfuss. Known for their foundation, which is based in New York and Caracas and supports education in Latin America and scholarship worldwide, the couple has been devoted to 20th-century art of the region, showcasing it with the aim of elevating its global status alongside European work of the period. In addition to overseeing various exhibitions, the foundation has also put out a series of books. 

The first artwork to enter the Cisneros collection was a geometrically abstract work made of interlocking wire mesh by the Spanish artist Manuel Rivera titled Tiritaña. Later works that they bought would look similar to this—their holdings are deep in Latin American abstraction. In 2017, the couple announced that they would donate 102 works to the Museum of Modern Art in New York and establish a research institute for Latin American art at its 53rd Street campus. They also gave 119 works of Latin American colonial art to the Blanton Museum of Art, the Denver Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Hispanic Society Museum & Library, and the Museo de Arte de Lima; the gifts wound up becoming the subject of a traveling exhibition. In 2018, the couple’s foundation, the Collección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, announced that it would give 202 works to six museums, with 88 of the objects going to MoMA. As part of its reopening in October, the museum mounted “Sur moderno: Journeys of Abstraction,” an exhibition focused on abstract and concrete art produced in the 1950s and ’60s in Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, and Uruguay that drew heavily on the Cisneros gifts.

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