San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Latin American Collection Comes Out of Storage

ONE of the world’s remarkable collections of modern and contemporary Latin American art never sees the light of day in its entirety. In fact, it sits in a warehouse much of the year – two warehouses, to be precise – with pieces parceled out here and there to various museums around the world.


But right now San José’s Museum of Contemporary Art and Design is playing host to 51 works of the private Venezuelan- U.S. Cisneros Collection of art this month and next in an exhibit called “Ecos y Contrastes” (“Echoes and Contrasts”). “Rather than people coming to a museum or gallery, the museum comes to the people,” Pedro Tinoco, executive president of the Cisneros Foundation, told The Tico Times.


The educational and cultural foundation administers the collection on behalf of Venezuela’s Cisneros family, essentially serving as a lending program of some 2,000 artworks, usually kept in storage in Caracas and the U.S. state of Delaware, but some of which is scattered around the globe at any given time.


“OUR goal is to promote Latin American art beyond the region,” Tinoco explained. He likes to refer to the agglomeration of art as “a collection of collections.”


“We wish to bring as many people in the world in contact with the region’s art as possible,” Tinoco said.


The museum has selected a representative selection of works from the Cisneros Collection in the exhibit that opened just before the holidays. “Ecos” ties in its selected works with a theme of collective and individual Latin American identity – historical, cultural, sexual and political – and many of the pieces are being seen publicly for the first time.


Represented artists capture the identity theme in different ways: Venezuelan Meyer Vaisman’s “The Traveling Bean” shows a string of beans connecting Spain with Latin America on a medieval-style map; Nadín Ospina from Colombia sculpts an indigenous-style Mickey Mouse totem; Guatemala’s Luis Mález portrays a romanticized indigenous figure; and the late Victor Grippo from Argentina captures a stark black-and white table representing the harsh contrast of cultures that gave birth to what we know as Latin America.


“ECOS” sprawls over the museum’s four exhibition halls – the stone-block structure was once the storage depot for the National Liquor Factory and makes the perfect minimalist modern-art venue – with a mix of media: painting, drawing, sculpture, photography and installation works by 47 artists from 12 countries are represented. Exhibits are labeled in Spanish.


“Ecos y Contrastes” runs through the end of February. The Museum of Contemporary Art and Design is at Avenida 3, Calles 15 and 17, and is open Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is ¢500 ($1) for nationals and residents, $2 for foreigners, free on Monday. Call 257-7202 or visit for additional information. Find more information in Spanish and English about the Cisneros collection at


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