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Ella Fontanals-Cisneros participated in a conversation with Leonor Amarante, promoted by ARTE!Brasileiros, in 2016. (photo: Ênio César)


Cuban collector Ella Cisneros announced during the opening week of ARCOmadrid, that she will donate works from her private collection to the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, in a partnership to create a space for the art of the Americas in Madrid. The place chosen to host what will be called The Contemporary Art Collection of the Americas it is the second floor of the Tabacalera building, where an old tobacco factory used to be. The historic building has been abandoned since 2009 and, for more than a decade, there has been a project to create a National Center for Visual Arts on the site.

The announcement takes place the same week as ARCOmadrid, one of the most important art fairs in Europe, in which several Latin American artists participate. At ARCO, Ella received, on Tuesday night (20), the “A” award for her collection. While there is not enough fundraising for the creation of the Centro Nacional de Artes Visuais, Tabacalera has already been used to house exhibitions and other temporary activities. However, the project to have a permanent location continues to be developed and will begin with the revitalization of the building.

At the end of January, Cisneros confirmed the closing of the permanent exhibition space he had in Miami, USA, since 2006, the Cisneros-Fontanals Art Foundation (Cifo). On the occasion, he spoke about a transition to an international model of presentations. In this way, the partnership with the Spanish government can be seen as the beginning of this new conception of Cifo. The foundation's headquarters, however, remains in the US city.

As part of the CIFO collection, other organizations around the world are also slated to take up spaces in the building. The management of this project will be shared between the Spanish government and an international arts institution, whose name has not yet been released.

In addition to the space for the exhibition of Latin American works, the partnership also validates a pact for the research of Latin American culture and its artistic heritage. This association is also one more step towards Spain being seen as a point of connection between this art and Europe. In a press conference, Ella said that she feels very happy because she spent “a lot of time thinking that the collection would need a home where the public could have access to all this Latin American art” that she has been collecting for years and ended by saying that Spain is like if it was your second home.

In 2016, the collector participated in the cycle of debates TALKS, promoted by ARTE!Brasileiros and SP-Art. In it, he talked about the Cifo collection and about the arts in Cuba, the country where he was born. Leonor Amarante about the collector.

Cuban openness also in art

By Leonor Amarante

Ella Cisneros is one of the great collectors of contemporary art. Of Cuban origin, she left the island as a girl with the arrival of the Revolution and returned about three years ago. São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are already part of her international itinerary and that's why Ella was here to participate in the edition of TALKS in 2016.

The collector is an emblematic case of how art can link man to his environment. After all, Cuba has always been in his soul. In these days of political détente, she is trying to find her artistic voice on the Island. Away from her country, in a few decades she gathered more than 2.600 works for her Cisneros-Fontanals Art Foundation (CIFO), based in Miami. Now, she's ready to be a Peggy Guggenheim from Cuba. She's got plenty of it for that. Ella believes that she will greatly contribute to the development of the Cuban art system. “I can help, among other initiatives, by including artists from the Island in exhibitions of international quality.” Gustavo Pérez Monzón, for example, an exponent of the so-called Cuban 80 Generation, has already been contemplated. “We organized the exhibition Tramas, with 76 works by Monzón, at CIFO.” This was after the exhibition passed through the National Museum of Fine Arts of Cuba, as part of the 12th Bienal de Havana, in May 2015. All orchestrated by Ella.

His artistic sympathies also turn to Cuban institutions. Ella is restoring the Veiga Archive, an expressive collection of catalogues, documents and texts about local artists. “We are in the restoration phase, reorganizing and digitizing everything to make it available to the public.” The collector also wants to participate in the El Almacén project, which will transform an old gas depot into a space to store the collection of the National Council of Plastic Arts (CNAP) and other Cuban institutions. In fact, she expects changes to Cuban laws that place limitations on foreign institutions operating on the island. The architecture is signed by Frenchman Jean Nouvel and Cuban Pedro de Rodríguez and the opening is scheduled for 2017.

If we look at the set of initiatives and the statute of the undertakings created by the collector, we can conclude that Ella Cisneros, in addition to being strong and powerful, is enigmatic. Her biggest project, on which she has been working silently for several years, is the mega-exhibition Goodbye Utopia, with works by Cuban artists from the 50s to the present day. “We are going to take the show to the four points of the United States, in 2017.” The title sounds provocative, but Ella is convinced that after President Barak Obama's visit to Cuba there will be significant changes. “The trip adds security to the process that Obama opened during his term and gives continuity to the cultural exchange project between the two countries.”

During his visit to São Paulo last year, he commented that Brazilian artists are overvalued and that the market has variants. “One of them is due to the world economy, and then something curious happens. In the past, if there was a crisis, prices would soon drop. Today, as the markets are crazy, people are looking for where to invest with a little security, and art has become one of those safe havens.”

The collector compares the Brazilian art market to that of the United States. “There is little diversity here. Brazilians buy Brazilian artists. It is very beautiful to see how the market remains strong internally, but this is a reflection of the high taxes that are paid for purchases outside the country. Today, the real has been lowering, but prices remain in dollars.” Ella comments that this affects, above all, emerging artists, “because in Brazil the new ones cost triple what beginners abroad are worth”. She even suggests that local collectors should press for a review of the values. “Some keep part of the works in their homes in New York and it is important that they can lend it to Brazilian institutions, so that everyone can see them.”

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