Collecting and selling

/ 1 March, 2018

“The first fever a col lector must overcome is that of possession”

Ambroise Vollard. Recollections of a picture dealer.

Silvia Dorfsman (Havana, Cuba, September 1963) does not fit the profile of the rich collector who collects art to have a certain prestige corresponding to a status or to diversify a portfolio; neither is she like the peddler selling with indifference for the piece and for whom it is just a way to make money. This entrepreneurial and charming woman thinks of herself as a temporary collector who enjoys having the pieces on her walls while promoting them: “…selling to be able to buy and enjoy pieces by new artists I am passionate about – she affirms–, even if I own them for short periods”.

Interviewing her is easy; on one hand, because she is the perfect host who learned how to distinguish and cater for people’s taste, and on the other hand, because in many ways she is a direct and practical modern executive with alternate touches of familiarity and refinement: “As a child I took pleasure in looking at the paintings, glassware and porcelain we had at home. (…) It was an immense delight to leaf through the books and see their illustrations as I showed a penchant for drawing and dance, though I never studied them”.

(…) “I spent my childhood and adolescence in Havana – she answers –, between La Puntilla, Playita de 16 and Ferretero: lots of sea and little responsibilities”. Silvia confesses that her universe full of happiness and innocence ended all of a sudden when in 1980, at the age of 16, she boarded a ship during the Mariel mass exodus to move to the United States with her family: her parents, maternal grandparents and siblings. Everything swiftly changed for her and that experience destroyed her innocence, turning everything around, starting a very different existence from that in the Havana neighborhood (…)

“I studied International Affairs at Florida International University (FIU), with a minor in Art History and I took some painting and sculpture courses. (…) I also took private painting classes and my professor took me to the studio of two painters I deeply love, Luis Marin and José Iraola. It was a great way of signing me up (…) and the beginning of my love affair with art.

 “At that time I was working in the field of medicine, interacting with many doctors, so I started to organize private cocktail parties to promote and help both painters sell their work. Then Marin suggested paying me a commission, I accepted, and from there on I became addicted to the constant challenge of finding an owner for the pieces (…)”.

She avoids mentioning names not to forget anybody, but throughout her career she has often sold the work of Bedia, Aguilera, Lorca, Carlos González, Pepe Franco, etc. (…) “In the 90s I opened my own gallery and I curated for two others, and since 2002 I work as an independent dealer. I had the privilege of meeting masters like José María Mijares and I positioned many of his works, as well as Cundo Bermúdez’ and Rafael Soriano’s. Nowadays, I work with Cuban artists that live in the United States, in Cuba, or anywhere else in the world, and whenever possible I choose people I know well…” (…)

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