Collecting 101 is a series hosted by art advisor and curator Daria Borisova who seeks out knowledgeable and inspiring female collectors in the art world to educate art lovers and future collectors. This week, Daria interviewed Alejandra Castro Rioseco, a philanthropist and private collector who spends her time between Dubai, New York and Santiago. With an impressive career dedicated to philanthropy for the last 12 years, Alejandra has founded several important organizations in and out of the art world focused on promoting gender equality and educating women. Alejandra is the founder of Mujer Opina Foundation, and is an active board member of several prestigious institutions and organizations, including the Frederic Chopin Foundation in Poland, the Museo del Bario in NYC, the International Jose Limon ballet, and the eagerly anticipated Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. Her latest project includes MIA, a private art collection with a global footprint aimed at promoting women artists and their work. Read on to learn more about her exciting project, and her exclusive insider collecting advice.
I saw from your May 2019 interview with the Art Newspaper that your first work was a kinetic piece by Argentine artist Martha Boto. I really appreciated how you described this experience of buying your first artwork as an “awakening” to art in general, and more specifically, kinetic and feminist art. Do you still look for that connection when buying new works? What attracts you to specific works of art?
I always look for the connection in each piece of art that I choose and in each work that I have. I am attracted to art that has content in its message [and] that talks about something we cannot define as a simple view. I am no longer as easy to fascinate as I was before; today I am more critical, and I want the piece and the artist to be the one I like. Not only the piece, but also who is behind the message of that work. I [also] look at the environmental impact of the materials used in the work, and if this artist has potential. Today, for me, putting artists in a place of visibility they deserve is key, and that is why the work is so incredibly linked to the artist’s history.
What works have you recently acquired into your collection?
The last works I’ve collected have been very special and profound, perhaps because of the moment we are going through now [with Covid]. One work is by the Mexican artist, Elvira Smeke. She’s a wonderful artist who works on gender issues, and in a country like Mexico that has so many problems concerning the mistreatment of women, including abuse and women disappearing. Her work is very moving. I also recently acquired The Last Supper from Veronica Ruth Frias, a Spanish artist. The work is a very modern art piece representing the last supper with women dressed in red and children sitting around the table, and the video transforms into a moving picture. Very consistent with the trend of the virtual.
Any artists or markets you think should be on collectors’ radars now?
Yes, of course. I think it’s very interesting to see artist diversity in a collection.There are artists who elevate an art collection, which is the case with artists represented by Art D’Egypte (a platform that aims to promote Egyptian art while highlighting and preserving Egpytian heritage sites), who in their very DNA have information of thousands of years of art.
I also recommend Peruvian artists who are represented by a young agency called BLOC Art. And, of course, MTArt Agency, who are at the top in finding avant-garde artists of the moment. I am positive, with this information, you can create a beautiful art collection.
Do you ever collect art as an investment?
It is important to consider art as an investment. Although the word “investment” is somewhat hackneyed, art can be an investment in your legacy and heritage. As we invest love in education and our body, we must also invest such in our art.
What resources do you recommend to new collectors or art lovers who might find galleries and fairs intimidating? Where should new collectors start?
That is a very interesting question. For both new and experienced collectors, I think traveling and visiting art fairs and galleries is very good. When traveling to galleries, there are always people who know art and who have the sensitivity to understand what you want. I think a good gallery seeks to build a relationship more than the goal of selling a piece of art to a client one time. While traveling and visiting galleries is worthwhile, virtual museums are a great tool today because no one sees you. There’s no intimidation, and you can make your own decisions about the art and artists.
We are all eagerly anticipating the opening of Guggenheim Abu Dhabi in 2022. As a board member, can you tell us why this collection is important to the art world, and why you wanted to become part of this tremendous project?
First, [the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi] is a truly exceptional project, unique in all its senses. I think the Middle East is doing an exceptional job creating value in art for its society; they understand that a museum like the Guggenheim will not only be an open door to culture, but it will also elevate other projects in Abu Dhabi, similar to the Louvre.
I personally love the Guggenheim because of its history and its origins with a woman starting this idea of a museum in Venice, and then NYC and Lisbon. I think the U.A.E. deserves a museum of quality, like the Guggenheim, and the trajectory of talented people that will not doubt come with it.
Your MIA Art Collection is described as a collection encompassing works of women, by women, seeking to create visibility for women artists in the world. I saw you recently created a virtual museum, MIA Anywhere. How exciting! We’re seeing a lot of galleries and museums shift to virtual platforms. Can you speak to how you made this decision to go virtual? How do you think this shift will impact art business?
We were the first to create a virtual museum during the pandemic, and we had it up for the public within three days. First, we started with our collection, and then we created four rooms for artists, galleries and organizations to exhibit. It has been a success because of the visibility that we have been able to give to the artists, and especially when we were able to give people the opportunity to experience a museum in such a critical time in our history. We had 12 exhibitions in 18 countries with 48 artists and more than 600 pieces of art, all of this as a non-profit and with incredible success. We are changing the look of art as a virtual museum, and by giving people free access without restriction to viewing art, we are democratizing the art world. The ability to explore different countries, possibilities and experiences is endless. That is why democratizing art should be the next step in the art world.
Can you share any future plans for MIA, or your collecting goals in general?
The dream for MIA is to build a museum. For now, we will continue to expand by working on different platforms and projects.