Passion and Instinct: Collecting Art: Collecting Art

A resemblance of the Rodríguez collection

By Jorge L. Gutierrez

November 11, 2022


The Rodríguez collection is a blueprint of Cuban art and its diaspora. Within the context of the new MoCA-Americas the collection becomes an invaluable visual source for Diaspora identity. It represents a different approach to art history to try to better understand where we come from to better know where we are heading.

In the late 19th century we saw a consolidation of private art collections by passionate collectors and wealthy individuals. This consolidation process paved the way for private museums and public institutions to open their doors to the public. Within that tradition, Miami-based art collector Leonardo Rodríguez led and created the Kendall Art Center, now the new Museum of Contemporary Art of the Americas.

"The Cuban-born businessman Leonardo Rodríguez has been collecting art for nearly 30 years. He first collected antiquities, then focused on Modern and Contemporary Cuban art. He then acquired pieces from artists such as Servando Cabrera and Yoan Capote. When Rodríguez immigrated to the U.S. in the late 1990s, he brought 12 artworks. He founded an electrical company in Miami and began rebuilding his collection, which now includes more than 200 pieces."

All humans collect in some way. Since we were children, we have collected toys and objects of personal interest to us; later in life collecting information, knowledge, experience, and sometimes even wishes. Collecting art begins with inspiration. It is more about the notion of what we may call passion than money; a means of self-expression reflecting our personality where art needs to be seen and experienced.

Collecting for Leonardo Rodríguez comes from a very personal place. In art, the key is selecting something one wishes to possess and acquiring it confidently. Whatever the artwork, be it a painting, print, or sculpture, art speaks to the collector personally. A consummate collector decides with curiosity, research,  intuition, gut, and brain. It is about moving outside their comfort zone and looking at works by artists that might not be immediately understood or recognized. Collecting is always an impulse at present, and hesitation can make a collector miss the correct piece.

"In 2016, Rodríguez founded the Kendall Art Center. A private museum that exhibits his collection and aims to support the history and future of Cuban art. Rodríguez was also an artist earlier in his life primarily doing metalwork while he worked in a jewelry atelier. His interest in craft led him to launch the Fine Arts Ceramic Center earlier this year in 2020. A workshop next to the museum where the "understudied art and practice of ceramics has been reinvigorated," he says. Rodríguez describes his collecting habits as being determined by the interplay between the piece, the artist, and himself. "If a work says nothing, if it communicates nothing, then it doesn't interest me, no matter how 'pretty' or 'good' it is," he says.

“In the first few years, thanks to an extensive program of successfully executed exhibitions, the name of  Leonardo Rodríguez as a collector and the Kendall Art Center have managed to establish themselves, not just locally, but beyond Florida, knocking on the doors of permanent collections of great renown such as the Smithsonian Institution. Exhibitions proposed by the Kendall Art Center with works from The Rodríguez Collection have been hosted in several museums and academic institutions including the Museum of Arts & Sciences, in order to promote and conserve the Cuban art contribution. Leonardo Rodríguez has even donated works from his collection to other institutions in order to strengthen their Cuban and Latin American collections.”

Art collector Leonardo Rodríguez has taken the exciting path of creating the new Museum of Contemporary Art of the Americas as his subsequent life passion for art. The successful experience of the Kendall Art Center and the Rodríguez Collection has evolved in the past six years. Its artistic achievements disclose the commendable work of Leonardo Rodríguez as a passionate collector. The Kendall Art Center is an institution that has taken a step forward as a new museum. Not only dedicated to promoting and safeguarding Cuban art but also becoming a bridge among the artistic expressions of the Americas. Founding a private museum is often a proud and exhilarating highlight of a collector's lifelong accomplishments. However, like all endeavors, it presents many challenges.

It's well-known that many of our museum experiences are led by visionary collectors, those who donated or opened new museums to exhibit their extensive art collections.

"For centuries, art collectors have been driven by diverse motivations, but in the last three decades, we've seen the growth of systematized practices that have given rise to new trends in the art market. Among this scenery, one of the most important collecting trends has been to lend or donate artworks to museums.”

According to the Association of Art Museum Directors, more than 90% of art collections held in public trusts by American museums were donated by private individuals.

Take the Whitney Museum, for example, which was established to hold Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney's collection of American Art, or the Menil Collection in Houston, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. The Rubell Museum in Miami, and El Espacio 23 art space founded by collector Jorge M. Pérez, The De La Cruz Collection and The Margulies Collection at the Warehouse art spaces and museums also fall into this category. All are based explicitly on housing and exhibiting works from private art collections.

Global examples such as the Garage Museum in Moscow, the Zeitz MOCAA in South Africa, MalBa in Buenos Aires, Fundacion Cisneros in N.Y. Caracas,  Fondazione Prada in Italy, the Jumex Museum in Mexico City, and many others also contribute to this phenomenon.

On a global scale, art collectors have become an indispensable platform for art shows and art education with their privately funded art museums. The Rodríguez Collection, on extended loan to the new Museum of Contemporary Art of the Americas, will hold exhibitions and educational programs based on the works within the collection. Learning-to-look at art programs will also help viewers and students look carefully and think critically about the artworks within the museum.

The collection reflects significant artistic developments in contemporary art by established artists from Cuba, the U.S., and abroad, and is considered to be one of Miami’s largest, privately owned Cuban Contemporary art collections; privately funded by Leonardo Rodríguez and his family.

The Rodriguez collection is constantly expanding and features well-known artists from the Cuban Vanguardia such as,  Wifredo Lam, Cundo Bermúdez, Angel Acosta León, Servando Cabrera and Amelia Peláez. Works by artists from the post-revolutionary war period in Cuba include, René Portocarrero, Mariano Rodriguéz, Gina Pellón, Pedro Pablo Oliva, Tomás Esson, Manuel Mendive, Pedro de Oraá, Loló Soldevilla, Sandú Darié, Roberto Fabelo, Consuelo Castañeda, José María Mijares, Antonia Eiriz and Hugo Consuegra. The collection contains pieces by Cuban artists who worked during the tumultuous 80s and 90s, such as José Bedia, Zaida Del Rio, Sandra Ramos, Ciro Quintana, Humberto Castro, Angela Alés, Pedro Vizcaíno, Carlos Estevez, Guido Llinás, Carlos Luna, Pedro Ávila Gendis, Ángel Delgado, Geandy Pavón, Marlys Fuego, Julio Girona, Aldo Menéndez, Rubén Torres-Llorca, Henry Ballate, Reynerio Tamayo, William Hough, Javier B Brockman, Robert Rauschenberg, Ivonne Ferrer, Rubén Rodríguez, Carlos Quintana, Aimee Perez, Flavio Garciandía, and Nestor Arenas among others. Notably, the collection also includes the work of younger artists such as Lisyanet Rodríguez, Maikel Domínguez and Allison Kotzig.

Within the context of the new MoCA-Americas the Rodríguez Collection becomes an invaluable visual source for diaspora identity. Thus, it represents a different approach to art history that allows us to better understand where we come from, so that we may know where we are heading.

“As art is always present even when we do not seek it out. It then makes sense to think about art differently from how art history shows it. A reason to consider art not only regarding mainstream Western history, but also from the non-sequential experiences of non-western art of our current times.”

The Rodríguez Collection of Cuban Artists promises to be just the beginning of an ever-expanding gathering of art, artists, and information. Critical to understanding and sustaining the artistic trajectory that represents the best of Cuba.

Where we come from?

KENDALL ART CENTER

The Kendall Art Cultural Center (KACC), dedicated the past six years to the preservation and promotion of contemporary art and artists, and to the exchange of art and ideas throughout Miami and South Florida, as well as abroad. Through an energetic calendar of exhibitions, programs, and its collections, KACC provides an international platform for the work of established and emerging artists, advancing public appreciation and understanding of contemporary art.

Passion and Instinct: Collecting Art

A resemblance of the Rodriguez Collection

The Rodríguez collection is a blueprint of Cuban art and its diaspora. Within the context of the new MoCA-Americas the collection becomes an invaluable visual source for Diaspora identity. It represents a different approach to art history to try to better understand where we come from to better know where we are heading.

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