The fortuitous nature of a calling

Luciano Méndez’s Contemporary Cuban Art Collection

/ 1 December, 2017

The Cuban art collection has a short–standing and fractured history. During recent decades, after national production presented itself to the world with dazzling and renewed spirit, a high percentage of our plastic arts mainly increased in overseas private collections. That is why, Luciano Méndez’s contemporary Cuban art collection has the additional appeal of remaining in Cuba.

More than 500 artistic works and 60 artists are part of such a collection, notable for its high quality pieces of art and for being very as representative, particularly of pictorial art (…).

When and with what purpose did you turn your attention towards Cuban arts?

For work reasons I came to live in Cuba in 2004. At first I began purchasing affordable pieces to decorate the offices of the bank in which I worked and for my home.

I started visiting exhibitions and approaching gallery owners and art critics, and I sensed an authentic explosion of good art, beyond what I have seen in other countries I have visited as a banker. Becoming a collector was not a deliberated decision; instead, I acquired more and more pieces of art, with more economic relevance, that gave me greater satisfaction.

Still a bank office, the workplace is now an exhibition site cherished by employees and visiting clients; (…) At home things are similar (…) The hobby has taken on a considerable dimension. I accept being called a collector.

Do you still purchase pieces just because you like them, or do you consider the commercial potential implicit in collecting artworks?

The commercial potential is present in any economic choice (…). All daily human decisions have an economic component. In an art collection, that is not inherited, obtained through work and savings, you have to be cautious. I do not have a commercial purpose. I’m happy with the investment not falling under the mean value. (…)

What are the keys to defining your collection?

First, I solely and exclusively purchase pieces of work by Cubans living and working in Cuba. So, out of the 500 works, some might have been painted away from Cuba, but I would dare to say that all of them were painted on the island. A few of the pieces were not in Cuba, and in a way, I have rescued them. I do not collect Vanguardia (avant–garde) or Colonial works.

Secondly, I buy solely and exclusively pieces I like. This means I disregard pieces sold at interesting prices but not to my liking. If I do not like them, they will not be part of my collection.

Thirdly, I get a lot of information, I try to visit many exhibitions; visiting all is impossible because there are many. I read publications, and of course I read Art On Cuba. And I care about critics’ opinions.

I make an effort to personally meet the artists and that is the fourth issue; as a collector it is important to include and interpret the work by knowing about the author, his thoughts and inspirations, his spiritual experiences to create. Artists reflect themselves in their creation, so I need to know both. There are paintings I might collect by all means, because I like them, but I always try to learn about the artist’s perception. (…)

Onedys Calvo

Onedys Calvo

She holds a master’s degree in Art History. Lives and works in Havana. She is a curator with the City Historian’s Office and contributes to various specialized publications, such as ArteCubano, Revolución y Cultura and OPUS Habana. She also contributes to the radio station Habana Radio as a journalist, and is the director of the Center for Interpretation of Cuba-Europe Relations, Palacio del Segundo Cabo, Havana.

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