Before Lygia Clark was getting major museum retrospectives; beforeAdriana Varejão was represented by leading galleries; before Beatriz Milhazes was achieving high prices at auction, Patricia Phelps de Cisneroswas collecting Latin American art, filling the walls of her home with Modernist abstraction and contemporary works by artists from Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina and Uruguay.
Over the last 16 years, Ms. Cisneros and her husband, Gustavo A. Cisneros, have donated 40 of these pieces to the Museum of Modern Art, where she has served on the board since 1992. Now, they are giving 102 more and establishing a research institute at the museum for the study of Latin American art.
“This is a transformative gift,” Glenn D. Lowry, the museum’s director, said in a joint interview with Ms. Cisneros at his office on Friday. “It comes fully developed.”
The donation includes artists who were working on abstraction during the middle and second half of the 20th century, such as Hélio Oiticica, Lygia Pape, Jesús Rafael Soto and Tomás Maldonado. Of the 37 artists whose works are included in the most recent gift, 21 are entering MoMA’s collection for the first time.
Ms. Cisneros offered MoMA its pick out of her home collection, as long as the museum, in addition to displaying the pieces, would regularly loan the works to other institutions, Mr. Lowry said.
Ms. Cisneros did not part easily with the selections she and her husband — a member of the Cisneros family that made its multibillion-dollar fortune in Latin American media — have been living with for 40 years.
“She said, ‘You’re taking everything in my living room,’” Mr. Lowry recalled.
A piece by Willys de Castro, for example, enjoys pride of place in Ms. Cisneros’s study. “Did we dare to ask for that picture?” Mr. Lowry said. “It’s like taking the centerpiece from a room.”
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