Cultured Magazine

Winter 2015

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170 CULTURED ast year, Gabriela Garza received a call from the Mexican Minister of Culture. The government had cut back its arts funding and Mexico City's premier museum needed patrons. Would Garza be willing to be president of the Board of the Friends at the Palacio de Bellas Artes? The fervent art collector said "yes," and it wasn't long before the director of the museum was explaining—with some desperation—that they were short one-third of the budget for a much-anticipated Leonardo and Michelangelo show. Garza arranged one-on-one lunches with a succession of "very good friends," and four of them came up with the necessary money. "Who is going to say 'no' to Leonardo?" declares Garza with self-effacing charm. Evidently, she too enjoys saying "yes," as she is also a significant supporter of five other museums: she sits on the boards of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Bass Museum of Art and the Chopo Museum of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, as well as the National Committee of the Whitney Museum and the National Council of the Aspen Art Museum. "When you meet people in the art world and you have something in common, in five minutes, you are family," says Garza from the library of her home in the plush Lomas Chapultepec neighborhood of Mexico City. She and her husband, Ramiro, whose Grupo R is a major player in Mexican oil and gas, split their time between the Mexican capital, Miami and Aspen. The room is grand but somehow intimate, with a fireplace and many books. Behind her hangs a black-and-white painting of muscular buttocks by Andy Warhol; to her right, a 1966 Picasso drawing of a naked, bearded man. In between are two photographs from Roni Horn's beautiful You are the Weather series. When asked to describe her taste, Garza exclaims, "I tell my interior designer, 'Don't look at me as a housewife or a Mexican lady with five kids. Think of me as a German gay man!'" In her Acne skinny jeans, gray Balenciaga sweater and black-rimmed Céline glasses, Garza does not look like the mother of five children between the ages of 28 and 16. While Garza has worked with the interior designer Luis Bustamante, she chooses and hangs all of the art. The collector is glad that she doesn't have an art advisor, in part because she loves doing the research herself. "She's not a collector who comes and goes. She has discipline. She sees every one of our shows," explains Mónica Manzutto, co-owner of Mexico City's Kurimanzutto gallery. Indeed, Garza can spend hours in a gallery gathering background on an artist. "My husband gets frustrated with me," she confesses. "Men are so fast and practical." Garza developed a love of art (and a proficiency in Italian) while studying fashion design in Florence. After graduating, she returned to her hometown in western Mexico, where she set up a "small atelier making dresses for all the nice girls of Guadalajara." She met Ramiro on a blind date, and they were married ten months later. The first artwork they acquired was a large-scale painting by Antoni Tàpies, which hangs in a neighboring suite of living rooms with a thoughtfully installed selection of Mexican artists such as Gabriel Orozco, Damien Ortega and Abraham Cruzvilleagas; and Americans like Alexander Calder, Cy Twombly and Richard Prince. "Eugenio [López] was so inspiring for us," explains Garza, referring to the owner of the Jumex Foundation, which has the most comprehensive collection of contemporary art in the country and makes a point of displaying Mexican artists alongside their international peers. Although Garza loves the art world, she often has to laugh at the etiquette of the art market. "In clothing stores, they always say, 'This will go perfectly with jeans,'" explains Garza with a chuckle. "In art galleries, they say, 'Oh, MoMA just bought the other one.'" She also marvels at how art dealers loathe mentioning the words "millions" or "thousands." "They just say 'one-point-six,' 'nine hundred' or 'thirty-five,'" says Garza. The Garzas live most of the school year in Mexico City; they head to Aspen for Christmas, New Years and six weeks of summer and then spend Thanksgiving, Art Basel and other moments in Miami. The three homes have very different palettes, providing distinct contexts for their art. Their fifteenth floor Miami apartment is glisteningly light, with white enameled walls and ceilings and white furniture. Floor- to-ceiling windows provide 180-degree views of Miami Beach and its waterways. "It looks clean and easy," says Garza, "but it took us three years to renovate and decorate." The apartment contains work by contemporary artists such as Anish Kapoor, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Richard Serra, Damien Hirst and Rirkrit Tiravanija, along with sculptural torsos from ancient Rome and sphinxes from an indeterminate time bought in Madrid. "We didn't want it to be white wall wow wow wow," says Garza, who thinks that the older objects improve the "coziness of the conversation." Their Aspen home has a completely different atmosphere—more of a large Modernist chalet, generously clad in raw wood and rough-cut stone. Here the vintage furniture, which Garza chose herself, is more distinctive, with a rare red Jean Royère Ours Polaire suite dominating the primary sitting room. It is flanked by Jeff Koons and Franz West sculptures, which, in turn, look out onto verdant foothills. The entrance foyer features a small but perfect Donald Judd wall work, which has become a family favorite. Garza's 24-year-old son, Patrizio, recently made a pilgrimage to Marfa, Texas, to see Judd's Chinati Foundation on his own, because he couldn't convince any of his friends to accompany him. Garza is not sure where she and her husband are headed as collectors, but she takes pleasure in the fact that all her children love art, often meet their parents in Miami for Art Basel or in Paris for FIAC and are looking forward to collecting themselves. At the moment, Garza has no art in storage but only one or two empty walls. When they are full, she knows she will face some difficult decisions. Maybe it's time to buy an apartment in New York? I tease. "When we are in New York," she says with a warm smile, "we like to stay in hotels so we can focus on the art that is outside of the house." HIGHER CALLING L Gabriela Garza doesn't just collect—she makes power moves that keep the art world turning. Sarah Thornton enters her orbit. PORTRAIT BY KARL WOLFGANG

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