COLLECTION: Rosa de la Cruz And Her New Bet On Contemporary Art

On the façade of the three-story building in Miami’s Design District that will house Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz’s remarkable collection, there will be no distinctive name; only a billboard featuring Félix González Torres’s solitary bird soaring into the sky. Of this essential 20th century artist, whom Rosa knew and whom she supported for many years, the de la Cruzes treasure what is likely the most significant group of works. “Treasure”, in this case, refers to the responsibility in the custody of the legacy of one of the true genuine transgressors, capable of altering the notions of contemporary art.

COLLECTION: Rosa de la Cruz And Her New Bet On Contemporary Art

The transference to a large number of people of the experience of enjoying, at no cost, the possibility of this continual close contact with art that is usually restricted to the private space of collectors, endows the collection with a new meaning. “It makes me happy to imagine the people in the neighborhood, the groups of schoolchildren, those who have not had any contact with contemporary art, taking possession of this space, discovering the work of artists like Félix or Ana Mendieta, which will be on permanent exhibit,” Rosa remarks. Several of the most significant works by the Cuban artist who accelerated the time of art by using her own body and the earth itself as material, will be installed on a floating platform on the third floor. The permanent exhibition of works by these two Cuban artists reaffirms the bond that linked them to Miami.
Although the structure of the 30,000 square-foot building designed by John Marquette might be reminiscent of a museum, it differs from these kinds of institutions, as well as from the usual exhibition spaces for collections, which open on a seasonal basis or by appointment only, and which do not possess that sense of symbolic transference of a collection to the community. Rosa knows that this idea requires the formation of the sensibility of the gaze, and for this reason she will move a large number of books to the library space, that it may become a study place for the people in the neighborhood. She imagines people contemplating the city’s horizon from the rooftop on the top floor. A gesture that reveals her purpose: to broaden the horizon of the Miami art scene.
This is about the de la Cruzes “opening house” in a permanent way. But more than prolonging these visits from art lovers to their remarkable collection – as has been the case throughout the past fifteen years – with surprises such as the presence of Henri Loyrette, director of the Louvre, or of Rotraut, Yves Klein’s wife, the creation of this public space that specialists will appreciate entails the potential to transform the gaze of the non-initiates to art. It is to them that this place will be dedicated. Not in vain does this place identify itself with the bird by González-Torres, the creator of works that resorted to mechanical reproduction to humanize, to allow everyone to take home an infinitely multipliable object or image. Rosa has an unforgettable memory of him. On the occasion of his great exhibition at the Guggenheim Foundation, she and her husband, Carlos, made a special edition of one hundred books featuring the publication edited by Nancy Spector, with a statement about the author that celebrated Félix´s life. Three months before his passing away, the artist joined the de la Cruzes in their home to dine on lobster enchiladas, which he loved – “we always talked about cooking recipes,” she recalls – and as soon as they finished dinner, he asked her for a pencil (not a pen) and signed every copy.
The relationship with many other artists included in the collection – Arturo Herrera, Jim Hodges, Naomi Fisher, Christian Holstad, assume vivid astro focus, Josh Smith, Kelley Walker, Guillermo Kuitca, Aida Ruilova, and so many others – has been a friendship that has affectively enriched the relationship with art. Rosa becomes committed to the works; she documents them and she continually redefines the boundaries of her relationship with art. There has been a reason for her extending the boundaries of her home and transforming it into an open space: “The public must activate the collection. Each time somebody views it, they leave a story behind.” In her personal history, art has been, in fact, an axis articulating the meaning of the world.
Much of what this extraordinary collector is, was derived from the aura of her grandmother, after whom she was named; she was descended from a family that had lived in Cuba for two hundred years, and she radiated “inexhaustible joy and generosity: at eighty she felt like a twenty-year-old.” Her mother, a reader and a bridge player on a par with the best male players of her time, was the daughter of Eugenio Rayneri, the architect who designed the National Capitol Building in Havana. Ever since she could remember, Rosa had known that her family – linked to the sugar industry through her father’s side – had contributed to the urban configuration of the city she lived in. Under the guidance of Rayneri, she discovered the history of ancient Rome, Vassari and the legacy of the Renaissance, and it was “thanks to him” that the “libido cognoscendi”, that inexhaustible wish to know everything, became an integral part of her temperament.
The travels that followed her marriage, associated to Carlos’s entrepreneurial life, led her to live in Pennsylvania, New York, Madrid, and finally Miami, where her personal passion for art would exert an influence on the cultural transformation of the city. The first painting in their collection was a Tamayo of the series Los astrónomos (The Astronomers) which still hangs in their bedroom together with a Lam. At the beginning, they only acquired modern Latin American artworks. Their initiation in contemporary art took place with the revelation of artists such as Alfredo Jaar, Mendieta, Ernesto Neto, Kuitca or Gabriel Orozco, whose works she feverishly purchased. Then the collection became globalized with the incorporation of works by Jim Hodges, Cosima Von Bonin and Jack Leirner, Jonathan Meese, Sigmar Polke, Martin Kippenberger, Albet Oehlen and Paulina Olowska, among others.
In the late 1990s, at a time when Miami began to wake up to artistic effervescence, Rosa instigated the exhibition The Bodyshop, which gathered together key names of that feverish community: Bedia, Rubén Torres Llorca, Quisqueya Henríquez, Consuelo Castañeda, Teresita Fernández, and Iñigo Manglano Ovalle, among other artists who were invited to show in a former repair shop. It was the beginning of another activism in art. In 2004, the family boat became the floating scenario for Commotion in the Ocean, curated by Amada Cruz, Dominic Molon, and artist Dara Friedman. By then, Rosa had completed a three-year cycle, which she would still extend to another five, determined to maintain a permanent visual ticket towards world contemporary art at The Moore Space, which she had co-founded with Craig Robins. Curated by its director, Silvia Karman, and with the support of Christine Macel, the first exhibition of that new generation of contemporary French artists to which Adel Abdessemed belonged was presented in the United States. There were also key exhibitions such as that of Yang Fudon, curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist; Interplay, with the support of the Jumex Collection and that of Patrick Charpenel; The Art of Agresión, showing disturbing angles of the gaze of art on war, and important projects involving artists whose works had not been seen in the city: John Bock, Jeppe Hein and Allora&Calzadilla, among others. This year, aware of the fact that “alternative spaces have, due to their own nature, a short duration,” she dedicated herself to her space without a name, but born of a long trajectory of collecting art.
Rosa de la Cruz has never had a portrait of herself for one reason: “I am not interested in remaining stationary in the past.” She has parted with works she loves – such as some of González-Torres’s stacked prints – to contribute to the empowerment of institutions such as the Museum of Contemporary Art. For her new space, she dreams “that people may sit and watch a painting for an hour”, and it is clear for her that the collection will not necessarily include the artists that the market has established but those in whom she believes. Among those she will show at the opening exhibit are Bedia, Hernan Bas, Cristina Lei Rodríguez, Consuelo Castañeda, Naomi Fisher, and César Trasobares, who was a friend of González-Torres and whose work – a sort of calendar made with leaves – will be placed beside the space that has been dedicated to his spirit, with the certainty that anonymous people will inscribe their names, not once but many times, in this space where the solitary bird takes possession of the sky.