Claudio Cerini: New art collectors

No. 128 – September 2005

He defines himself as a hair stylist. He studied in London with Vidal Sassoon. In 1985 he opened his first hair salon with 2 other people. Today he has 300 employees and three branches. He is a father of two daughters and husband of Maria. He started collecting art 5 years ago, when he moved to the neoclassical building in Talcahuano and Arenales, one floor above where Ruth Benzacar once lived.

At the age of 45, he found in art something that gives him as much pleasure as his own work. He prefers to buy artworks from artists of his generation. We visited his house, where there are pieces by Gumier Maier, Román Vitali, Oscar Bony, Mondongo, Ernesto Ballesteros, Liliana Porter, Lux Lindner, Fabio Kacero, Marcelo Pombo, Miguel Harte, Eduardo Arauz, Benito Laren, Flavia Da Rin, Gachi Hasper, Mariano Vilela, Fabián Burgos and Alfredo Londaibere, among others, and he told us for this article how he began collecting.

Arte al Día: Every artwork has a story. How did you acquire a piece by Oscar Bony?

Claudio Cerini: Unfortunately, I met Oscar in the last ten days of his life. We went to see him with a friend because he needed the money to pay the costs of his illness. It was sad because we knew the need he had for that money, but at the same time there were pieces, like the one I have, that he did not want to sell, SW 38 long on blindex, from 1993. He finally sold it to me. It was one of his bullet hole pieces, along with another one that I returned in which the word “utopias” was shot.

AAD: Why did you return it?

C.C.: I gave it back to his daughter when he died, because I believe in utopias.

AAD: Do you connect personally with the works?

C.C.: Yes, I also hang them here in my house, where I live and see them every day.

AAD: At the entrance to your house there is a huge garden embroidered by Román Vitali with colorful beads.

C.C.: What happens is that I am very urban, my house doesn’t have a garden and when I saw this installation in a show I thought it was a good way to recreate my own garden at home. It makes me happy, because of the colors, and I also believe that it provides a balance to the pessimistic nature of Bony’s work, so I put them together.

AAD: You have a piece by Mondongo, which refers to a work by Rembrandt

CC: I think it is one of the best pieces. I think there are few physical places that can tolerate such a large piece and I had the ideal space. This house is very classic in its structure but by putting very contemporary works in it, it balances out a bit. In this piece the same thing happens, the Mondongo take a classic topic like Rembrandt but they do it in a modern way with the technique of smoked meats and cheese.

AAD: There is a Siquier perfectly located at the end of a long corridor. Did you buy it specifically for that site?

C.C.: Yes, although the work always seemed a little sad to me, I think it looks good in that place because it is seen in perspective.

AAD: All along the corridor there are works by Kacero, one of your favorite artists.

C.C: These works were in the Hong Kong Biennial; they are ten original pieces that are related to architecture. I like architecture very much; I am a frustrated architect. I like all these equations of forms, lines and mixtures very much because it’s a bit like what happens to my hair, the forms of a good cut, of a hairstyle.

AAD: How would you define that relationship between forms and hair?

C.C: My hair education is completely opposite to what I had in Buenos Aires. I was trained in London where they promoted a search for creativity that had nothing to do with what was done here until then. I studied with Vidal Sassoon, who was also an architect. He revolutionized the way of cutting hair in the 60’s, using the French style, which was all inspiration, there was no school, so it had to do with much more specific forms that later gave freedom to solve the cut, from some architectural guidelines that support the hairstyle. For me, the haircut is like the foundation of a house. Then comes the decoration, which would be the paintings.

AAD: When you buy a work of art, what would be that pillar or foundation that you mention?

C.C.: The pillar is beauty. The search for things that I like to live with, that are beautiful, that give me joy. I have to enjoy watching the work. Two years ago I returned a piece, a painting by Elsa Soibelman that I had bought from Florencia Braga Menéndez. The next day it was the cover of a newspaper’s culture supplement. The work had increased in value, but I returned it because when I saw it hanging in my house I didn’t like it, even though it was a good deal, I didn’t want to have it.

AAD: Do you like to meet the artists?

C.C: It’s essential for me. I went to the workshops of all the artists whose work I have. Afterwards I respect the commercial link of the gallery that represents him or her. I must also like the artist. In general I like the work even more when I meet the artist. I haven’t had any disappointments in that regard.

AAD: How did you start collecting?

C.C: It started when I moved into this house, five years ago. I needed some artworks. The enthusiasm was passed on to me by a friend, Giorgio Alliata. I began to see masters like Macció and Noé. We would go with Giorgio to the artists’ studios that Angelica Formenti took us to. When I began to see my contemporaries I noticed that there was a stronger intellectual bond with them than with the masters, it was a generational issue. The first workshop I visited was that of Pablo Siquier. He had a Kacero hanging, which caught my attention and so I followed it. I did this activity on Mondays and it gave me a lot of pleasure. I also like the idea of thinking that I am going to grow up with the painting, we are going to have a shared history. I had two works by De la Vega, but they made my house old, and I have a modern thinking structure. There is a kind of common energy with these artists, we saw the same films, the same series, their influences have to do with me. I understand them.

AAD: Do you like talking to gallery owners?

C.C: Yes, I bought the pieces that are in my house in the galleries of Daniel Maman, Dabbah-Torrejón, and Ruth Benzacar. I have a lot of affinity with Orly Benzacar, I trust her. I don’t buy as an investment, but from my personal taste.

AAD: What other artists would you like to have?

C.C: Jorge Macchi is the next on my list. People always beat me, I could never find a work of his that has moved me and that someone doesn’t buy before me. And I am also a little afraid of his work because of the topic of violence, but it is very aestheticized as in Bony’s work. If I can live with a gunshot, I suppose I can also live with police clippings from a newspaper. Another artist I love is Guillermo Kuitca. I like all of his work. I have to find the piece that moves me the most, but all his periods interest me.

AAD: If you had to choose one artist among all those in your collection, which would it be?

C.C.: Fabio Kacero. He has a world of his own, he is completely alien to the parameters of normal life, and that seems exquisite to me. He has a sensitivity that I have rarely found.

AAD: Why did you decide to become a collector?

C.C: Thanks to this, thanks to art, I found a place of pleasure.

AAD: And what was your life like before?

C.C: I worked more. Now I found something that moves me as much as cutting hair.