Miami Biennale
Miami Biennale Events
Miami Biennale Inaugural Exhibition:
Beyond the Erotic. From the Collection of Milagros Maldonado

December 1st, 2010 to September 30th, 2011

Essay on Permanence


Invention of Place

Erotic Instinct

The development of every collection is premised on a unique set of circumstances. This one in particular reveals a long and intimate relationship between the collector and the visual arts. Since childhood, that bond was fed by the Latin American and Caribbean orientation of her intellectual education, both in Venezuela—where in that regard important cultural initiatives came to fruition in the last century between the 1950s and 1980s—and in the bosom of Latin American intellectual and artistic circles disseminated throughout Western Europe.

The expansion of every collection is framed by diverse concerns which inform its structure and characteristics. This collection began in the 1980s as a compilation of modern and contemporary Latin American art which, almost from the outset, expanded its purview to include firstly, European art, and later, coetaneous African and Asian art. Furthermore, it became a versatile and transcultural collection early on, since it never aspired to be an “academic” representation of art from a determinate “geopolitical zone”, nor representative of a specific artistic process, tendency or movement. Neither has it taken a posture alien to the mainstream nor shield away from the cultural margins, accepting the challenges and risks implicit in that decision. In like manner, although painting has been its dominant interest, from the beginning it has also evinced enthusiasm for sketching, etching, photography and sculpture. “To gaze at an object with desire is to appropriate it, to enjoy it,” said Bataille. According to this, we could denominate that side of the personal process of collecting as an “erotics of the gaze”, which, especially in this collection, carries an important weight. We could add that the growing liberation of the erotic by collecting is produced in the same measure as the numerous cultural behaviors which inform this practice are diminished.

Milagros Maldonado declares that she has built her collection without a concrete plan of development, but rather through motivations and inclinations that were more intuitive than conscious relative to those criteria, and which in turn have allowed her to compile a body work with possible internal correspondences. Each of her acquisitions has been more often than not preceded by her committed participation in the artistic dynamics of the various scenarios she has lived through, and frequently, by her familiarity with the careers of artists with whom she has maintained interpersonal relationships through the years. Perhaps in this light this collection—a third of which is comprised by this exhibition—displays, from the perspective of collecting practices, a subjectivity in movement, which, as in all human experiences, concomitantly encompasses dreams, pleasure, death and the afterlife.

It would seem that on this last point, and justly so, the possibility of an interpretive representation of this collection with porous boundaries and fluid and open composition arises. That is the basis of what has been her principal interest: to constitute with those works a field of multiple meanings that expand beyond the erotic inherent in the collecting process. We could add further still: this collection has been formed with an obsessive keenness to discern the meaning of the human condition.

José Antonio Navarrete
From Milagros Maldonado

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been a passionate and vehement devotee of art. As if by some metaphysical mandate which I can barely elucidate, I’ve collected, in a somnambulant, emotional, and subjective fashion, without preconceptions, works that have to do with my life and that only now after seeing them together, make me realize that there is a connecting thread that unites them all. That thread communicates not only something about my past or about a melancholy due to the passage of time that continually changes us almost unawares, but also the feelings of a Caribbean, Latin American, and Venezuelan woman and her times, as well as her personal concerns, struggles and tastes. A woman who approaches her world-view from a vision she denominates Tierra Nuestra (“Our Land”) and from the accumulated experience of an already long journey through the wide spaces in which she has had to live, almost always full of creativity and with long stays in cities which nurtured in an active, almost frenetic manner, her passion for art.

This collection is the product of her dreams of freedom, of many travels, of her incursion into the Accademia de Belle Arti of Rome and into psychoanalysis, of her activity as a producer of cultural events and a promoter of the arts in Caracas, of her vibrant salons with a group of Latin American artists in Paris, of her intense experience as a gallery owner in New York with a generous miracles partner Generoso, of encounters with unforgettable artists, and of the constant need for gestating a better, more serene world, always accompanied by that divine urgency dictated by conscience: “Only culture makes people happy.”

We need artists who are mindful of the needs of the world and who elevate us: that is what art has always done. I stress the words “mindful” and “needs” because the world is in need of our care and tired of self-serving egos. I have grown with art and also believed in art, but not in the business of art, which is as voracious and competitive as any other business. My devotion is reserved for true art, without tricks and deceptions; for an art that remains authentic towards its redemptive aspect; for the daydream aroused by a master painter with a specific inspiration, which thanks to a way of feeling and the ability to express it, immerses us in the resonance of a melody, believed and perceived by us as an aroma of what was, of what is already gone, yet that remains in the work; for that mode of expression which offers us an approximation to faraway places. All that and more I lived on a full-mooned Italian night at a sitar and guitar concert produced by Fabio Sargentini in the Roman amphitheater of Ostia Antica. It was a counterpoint of talent between a Hindu musician on the sitar and a Neapolitan on the guitar, "affacciati" among the cypresses and age old columns. It was pure art made music, a sublime creation between two beings. I was elevated to such an extent that "fu transportata in cello", and that act of redemption provoked such a feeling of love within me, so total and so infinite, that I forgave all men, each and every one of them, without acrimony and for eternity, in an instant of divine peace approaching glory.

I think that being an artist means having a special perception of some earthly matter or of the beyond and communicating it in such a way that captures and intensifies us when we manage to share it. It is from that perspective that I dedicate myself to the power of service, which implies the most profound awareness, reason, and objective in life. We know that a great part of the world suffers from a lack of possibilities that can unite us in the search for options to craft a better and more just world, a less discriminatory world, less indifferent to our capacity for mutually helping one another. I admire artists who, like El Anatsui, create small miracles, works that using the disposable as point of departure, are able to create a magic language, similar to an alchemical transformation that converts the ordinary, what we all discard, into another form of trompe l'oeil, into the precious thing, into the object of desire.

Milagros Maldonado