Tanya Capriles de Brillembourg: where art meets philanthropy.
By Solita Mishaan
My series of interviews “From Collector to Collector” begins with a conversation with Tanya Capriles de Brillembourg, a Venezuelan art collector who lives between Caracas, Madrid, and Miami. I meet with her at Miami's IdeoBox Art Space for a candid chat to discuss the role art plays in her life as collector and philanthropist.
My first question was about her initiation into the art world, to which she replied that her passion for art was triggered during the 1970s, when she began to acquire Venezuelan art. She later turned her attention towards Latin American art, and more recently to North American and European art. "Art has no limits, no boundaries", she says with conviction.
1. Tanya Capriles de Brillembourg.
2. Cover of the exhibition catalogue: Intersecting Modernities.
Pieces from her collection are currently on view at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. In her words, “the collection establishes a public dialogue without borders of any kind”. The exhibition, titled Intersecting Modernities: Latin American Art from the Brillembourg Capriles Collection will be on display at MFAH from June 19 to September 2 of this year. Mari Carmen Ramirez, the museum's curator of Latin American Art, said about the exhibit: “the museum as well as its curators and conservators have been working in active collaboration with Tanya for many years to bring the collection to Houston”.
The Brillembourg Capriles collection distinguishes itself by an excellent selection of important Latin and Central American artists. The Houston exhibit presents luminaries like Diego Rivera, Fernando Botero, Wifredo Lam, Roberto Matta, Joaquín Torres-García, Emilio Pettoruti, Armando Reverón, Rufino Tamayo, Antonio Seguí, Armando Morales, and many more. Moreover, the museum has assigned special galleries to specific artists: Loló Soldevilla and Elías Crespin.
ROBERTO MATTA. Soul without Terror, 1953
The exhibition focuses on the work of artists who have engaged in transnational, avant-garde, formal and conceptual conversations between Latin America, North America, and Europe. This is precisely what has always fascinated Tanya: connecting artworks and artists, keeping in mind that in the case of her collection, their relationship began in her own home. Passionate about sculpture as well, she found a narrative to display her pieces in her Caracas garden, not knowing that she was slowly creating a magnificent collection of her own.
Her father, Miguel Angel Capriles, a Venezuelan media magnate and owner of Cadena Capriles, started one of the most important Latin American art collections in the 1980s, years after his daughter had began hers. His decision came abruptly when his doctor advised him to take up a hobby, after he had suffered a heart attack. Sadly, his magnificent collection has never been exhibited, since Mr. Capriles does not believe in sharing his art with the public, something Tanya strongly disagrees with.
WIFREDO LAM. 1. Woman with Fan, II, 1942. / 2. Woman with Bird, 1955.
As collectors, both Tanya and I agree on the importance of the social side of art. A great example is IdeoBox Art Space, founded by Tanya with help from her daughter, Tanya Brillembourg in Miami’s Wynwood art district. IdeoBox is a platform that gives emerging artists the opportunity to present their work to a wider audience.
Besides her love of art, philanthropy runs deep in her family. Since childhood her father instilled in her the principles of giving back to society a portion of the many blessings they've been lucky to receive. He affectionately called his daughters “his paper princesses”, an allusion to his print media and communications empire, the most important in Venezuela. Even so, he never allowed them to grow up spoiled nor with unnecessary special privileges.
RUFINO TAMAYO. Figure in Red and Black, 1971.
Educated to show profound conscience and social responsibility, Tanya created the Children’s Cancer Foundation of Venezuela, whose work is still carried out to this day in Caracas and throughout the interior of the country. She also built the first shelter for mothers of children with cancer. When, due to the political climate in her country, she had to move to Miami, she did not take a moments rest before founding Saludarte, a philanthropic project dedicated to music, theatre, dance, and the arts. The foundation’s pillars are: creARTE, integrARTE, educARTE, and curARTE, a complete cultural program of rehabilitation, integration, and assistance. She confesses her work with Saludarte has brought her wonderful experiences, like the musical tour she organized in honor of Maestro Abreu when he received the Prince of Asturias Award, which included four concerts in Spain, one in Carnegie Hall, and a grand finale in Miami. She also remembers the group of inmates that demanded their human rights after listening to a Saludarte concert held inside the prison. Classical music can truly elevate our spirits and makes us better.
The foundation took off in 2003 with a program titled Loba, in three schools in Madrid. Today it already serves 60 schools. The classrooms, with children between nine and fifteen years of age, turn into opera companies during the nine months of school. The foundation takes care of every detail, from the libretto to the music, makeup, production, and school work, even the electric bill. Tanya tells us that, without a doubt, this type of projects are changing educational models through music and art. They also conduct dance workshops for sick children in hospitals. Tanya recalls how moved she is when she sees the positive changes in the lives of children, adolescents, or any human being for that matter. Her devotion to this cause is as big as her passion for art. For that reason, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, will publish the first catalog that highlights the work of the collector as philanthropist. Tanya is deeply touched when she talks about this subject, and a candid smile lights up her face.
1. Carlos Cruz Díez and Tanya Capriles de Brillembourg.
2. Tanya Capriles de Brillembourg with Gustavo Dudamel.
She took the necessary time to incorporate all of the Foundation’s initiatives into this exhibit, a multi-sensory combination of art, music and dance. The synergy of music and the visual arts was a total success during the exhibition opening, which took place on June 19th, followed by a celebratory dinner and a performance the next day. This exhibition also marks a new chapter in the history of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
Diego Rivera’s Still Life with Lemons (1916), which graces the catalog’s cover, is the central work of the entire display. Curiously, the person who actually bought this piece many years ago was her husband David Brillembourg, to whom she pays homage with this exhibition.
DIEGO RIVERA. Still Life with Lemons, 1916.
Tanya is without a doubt a daring woman. Although she only began collecting art in the seventies, her collection has been enriched with great pieces of contemporary art. She likes to live her passion through art, and insists in reminding me of the emotional freedom that comes when one devotes her life to art, music and dance. According to her, nothing can transport the soul to a different dimension as her commitment to art and culture.
Happiness that comes through loving and helping others, and passion for art, are the keys to Tanya Capriles de Brillembourg’s success. This exhibition heralds a great change in her life: before and after Houston. ■
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