I invariably aimed at buying only first-rate art for the collection. I would rather refrain from a purchase than have second best works of an artist. Lame compromises were not my style, and I never bought on impulse, either. I always knew in advance what I wanted to have. Whenever I happened to stumble upon something that deeply interested and fascinated me, I slept on it for at least a night before making up my mind and arriving at an unbiased judgment. Once, however, I made an exception…
Strike while the iron is hot
… while visiting an art fair in London. I was browsing through Horazio Zabala’s paper works, when suddenly the collector Ella Cisneros entered the booth. Like a flash of lightning, I rushed toward the gallerist and made it clear that I intended to purchase each and every one of the works hanging on the walls!
On January 1, 2000, the very first day of the new millennium, I appropriately started my job with building up from scratch the collection of contemporary art from Latin America that has been named Daros Latinamerica Collection since then. On January 2, I was already on the plane across the Atlantic, and on February 4, I made the first purchase. It was a four meters wide painting by the Cuban artist José Bedia, living in Miami, in which he mourned for his wife: “Reclamo”, from the year 1999. The final purchase I concluded for the Daros Latinamerica Collection was on September 2014—a work by the Puerto Rican artist Chemi Rosado Seijo, “The Gesture on Pollock and Post American Art”.
In the 15 years in between, I acquired more than 1200 works by some 120 artists for the Daros Latinamerica Collection. The original plan had been to slowly build up the collection over ten years, in order to then assess the portfolio and decide on further steps. Things turned out differently, though: I was simply moving too fast! In May 2004—we were just working on preparations for our exhibition “Cantos Cuentos Colombianos” to be opened in Zürich in the fall of the same year—there were already 75 artists represented in the Daros Latinamerica Collection. Very soon, the collection comprised 85 artists with approximately 750 works. We had reached 70% of our projected final inventory in only four years.
The Latin American art world in a nutshell
I was never concerned about the techniques used in the works I bought, as I fully trusted the competence of our technical curators in handling them, no matter whether they had to deal with a car (Betsabée Romero’s “Ayate Car”) or with a bag of dirt from Paris in 1968 (“History” by Antonio Dias).
Over the years, it gradually became evident that paintings accounted for only a very small fraction of the artworks in stock. Those artists in the collection that are purely painters can be counted on the fingers of one hand: Guillermo Kuitca, Fabian Marcaccio, Yishai Jusidman, as well as the younger Campins and Eduardo Berliner. The majority of works in the collection are installations and objects in the most diverse of styles and makes. Included as well are, of course, a host of photographic portfolios.
Most of these works were purchased through galleries, only a few of them directly from the artist, if there was no gallery or if the artist preferred it this way. I hardly ever bought anything at fairs or auctions, because I was usually reasonably well informed about the current production of most artists due to my numerous and regular visits to their studios. Art fairs thus rarely presented anything that was new to me, although they did serve as platforms for an exchange with the relevant actors in the art world.
Going through the trouble of counting the works in the collection according to their origin will inevitably produce the result that the largest number of works come from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Cuba. With these being the major art-producing countries in the region, the Daros Latinamerica Collection gives a good reflection of the contemporary art landscape in Latin America.