Wednesday, August 4

A couple donates their art collection of two million euros to Alicante: “You have to support culture without thinking about saving” | Culture

The American gallery owner Michael Jenkins and the Alicante historian Javier Romero this Thursday at his gallery in New York
The American gallery owner Michael Jenkins and the Alicante historian Javier Romero this Thursday at his gallery in New YorkJavier Moreno Vera

An American gallery owner, Michael Jenkins, and an art historian from Alicante, Javier Romero, have decided “to let go, like a son who has grown up”, to most of their collection of contemporary art pieces, representative of the different currents and avant-gardes that have emerged in the last fifty years. About 300 works, by 155 artists and valued at just over two million euros, which will visit the Museum of Contemporary Art of Alicante (MACA). A donation without economic consideration that has already been approved by the Alicante City Council, owner of the center, and that Romero trusts that it will contribute to alert “political leaders everywhere about the importance of supporting culture, without thinking about saving” , Add.

Romero tells by phone from New York that the collection was born “from the process initiated by Michael to purchase art”, a collection that, together, they have “promoted during the last 15 years”. Through pieces signed by Richard Serra, Andy Warhol, Takashi Murakami, Louise Bourgeois or Kara Walker, accompanied by other artists from Alicante or based in the province such as Teresa Lanceta, Aurelio Ayela, Daniel García Andújar or Olga Diego, the set “covers multitude of means of expression ”, from drawing to sculpture, painting, graphic work, photography, installation, artist’s book or video, and explains, according to its owners, the contemporary practice of art in recent decades. All, through artists of international relevance and “others who work at a different pace, on the margins, who do not enter into the canonical readings of art”, says the expert.

The works donated to MACA, Romero continues, generally have a strong social component. It not only tries to address the “formal issues” of its creators, but also “an eclectic, broad vision of how many paths there are to explore and how different the way of approaching” the environment can be from “gender, of race or sexual identity ”. “Women artists represent 40% of the collection,” says Romero, “and there are the 12 or 14 most important African-American artists of the last decades,” he continues. The content donated to Alicante also includes “numerous gay artists who worked on sexual identity, especially in the time of AIDS,” he says.

Works by Brazilian Vik Muniz donated.
Works by Brazilian Vik Muniz donated.

Finally, Jenkins decided that “it was important and fundamental” to complete this tour with artists from Alicante. “The collection is very global,” emphasizes Romero, “a term that is very inaccurate if the local is not included.” In addition, there is an affective component, the basis for the recipient of the pieces has been the MACA. Romero was a historian and art technician born in Elda (Alicante) when he met Michael Jenkins, co-owner of Sikkema Jenkins & Co, the famous Chelsea gallery (Manhattan), at the Reina Sofía museum in Madrid, in 2003. Years later, he married. And in their frequent visits to Spain, they were attentive to the evolution of the Alicante center and established continuous meetings with the creators of the area.

Work of Teresa Lanceta bequeathed to MACA of Alicante.
Work of Teresa Lanceta bequeathed to MACA of Alicante.

From the beginning, the museum that was born from the private collection of Eusebio Sempere, later fed with the legacy of Juana Francés and with the deposit of pieces of contemporary Spanish art of the Mediterranean Foundation (the extinct Caja Mediterráneo), was the recipient of a a collection “that had matured until it could be offered,” says Romero. They met with Rosa María Castells, director of MACA, in the hope that she would “understand the importance of the collection”. They showed him “pictures of all the pieces, one by one” and the acceptance of the legacy was immediate. “Their enthusiastic response confirmed to us that we had been working in the right direction,” says Romero.

It was in 2019, the moment when they thought they could stop, “although there is no complete collection,” Romero jokes. With a “great economic effort, but also work”, both experts had gathered, “cataloged, inventoried, stored and documented” a series of works that show their intentions and the work of the artists they most admire. “We think about the repercussion that institutions such as the Musac de León or the Helga Alvear museum in Cáceres can have for their respective cities as an intellectual experience or fundamental enrichment for anyone,” says Romero, “and we consider that MACA offers that potential to Alicante ”.

Work of Kara Walker.
Work of Kara Walker.

A birthday present

Romero recalls that Castells told them that 2021 would mark the tenth anniversary of the expansion of MACA, a work that expanded in all dimensions its first headquarters, the La Asegurada building, which began to house the collection bequeathed by Eusebio Sempere in 1977 “We saw that maybe it was a sign of something,” says the art expert. This year, the museum has not only received the donation, considered a “magnificent birthday present”, according to the director of the center. In addition, its managers have “rearranged the three collections” that are shown to the public and have expanded the exhibition space.

Given the arrival of the Jenkins and Romero legacy, they must first approve a budget for the transfer of the pieces from New York. Afterwards, they will carry out “a first exhibition to present the collection”, Castells advances, “and later, other temporary exhibitions that allow the entire collection to be covered”. The mission is “to disseminate it, work on it and investigate it,” says the director. MACA may also “assign works for external exhibitions”, Romero anticipates, “in order to create working relationships with other institutions.”

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