Ignacio Liprandi: From Art Collecting to Cultural Management in Politics

No. 130 – November 2005 

When he got married, he was looking for paintings for his house. He went with his ex-wife to arteBA to buy 2 or 3 paintings. Soon after, he had more than 20 paintings and became passionate about art. He confesses that he made a mistake, he then sought professional advice and now he is following his own path. He is very confident about his artistic decisions. For many years he was dedicated to finance in the private sector. Today, at 37 years old, divorced and father of a girl, he works on policies to try to develop cultural strategies. He lives in a classical house surrounded by very contemporary art pieces, by artists such as Omar Schiliro , Pablo Siquier, Román Vitali, Lucio Dorr, Sebastián Gordín, Sergio Avello, Claudia Fontes, Heredia, Ferrari, Cristina Schiavi , Marcos López, Res, Norberto Goméz, Pablo Suárez , Liliana Porter, Nicola Costantino , Distéfano, Nicolás Guagnini, Nahuel Vecino, De la Vega, Macchi, Noé, Ontiveros, Cristina Piffer, Dennis, Adams, Thomas Ruff , Santiago Sierra, Cindy Sherman, Meyer Vaisman, Paul Mc Carthy, Leandro Erlich, Vik Muñiz, Sophie Calle, Ernesto Neto, Alberto Greco, Alfredo Londaibere, Marcelo Pombo, Ernesto Ballesteros, Miguel Harte, Flavia Da Rin and Barilaro among many others.

Arte al Día: When did you start collecting art? 

Ignacio Liprandi: In May 1997 at arteBA. I got married in 1996. I had that typical newlywed apartment with empty walls. Then with my ex-wife we went to the fair to buy a couple of artworks to decorate the apartment. A year later there were more than twenty paintings. 

AAD: What was your first purchase?

I.L: A one meter by one meter painting by Adolfo Nigro. 

AAD: What did you find in art collecting? 

I.L: I was married for three years, I got divorced in ’99. Initially, it was a way of pouring all my vital energy into something, all the libido I wasn’t pouring into my marriage. When I got divorced it started to be almost a way of life. I live surrounded by beautiful things, not beautiful in the traditional sense of the term, of course, but beautiful for me.  

AAD: How would you describe your beginnings in the art world? 

I.L: The first year I got lost, I bought a lot of paintings that had no impact, were not very contemporary nor conceptual. One day Jorge Helft came to my house, who plays a very important role in all this, and given the fact that he doesn’t mince words, he finished looking at everything and told me that he thought it was garbage. I went with him to the Sao Paulo Biennial in 1998, and I realized that I was making a mistake. Jorge gave me a list of five professionals who could advise me and I started with Marcelo Pacheco in 1998. While talking with him, I told him what budget I had in order to put together a good collection. From then on, things took another shape. 

AAD: Is Marcelo Pacheco still advising you?

I.L: No. Initially the collection was only of Argentine art. At one point I began to buy Latin American art and then international, in other words, I expanded the horizon. Marcelo knew more about the art here in Argentina, I traveled a lot and informed myself and at one point, in the year 2000, we both felt that it didn’t make much sense to continue working together.

AAD: Now you have good insight and a much more refined taste.

I.L: Yes, I have developed a keen sense of what I like and what I don’t like. I have a lot of confidence. In the same way that Marcelo trained me, I incorporated his way of seeing art and understanding it, which is why the coincidence that we have in regards to an exhibition and also at the moment of choosing is incredible. 

AAD: What did you do with the previous pieces?

I.L: Some I sold, others I gave as part of payment. 

AAD: Do you find that some of the works you have are no longer to your liking? 

I.L: It doesn’t happen much to me, but every now and then I sell something.

AAD: Are you interested in meeting the artist?

I.L: I’m not interested in meeting the artist. I don’t think artists are more interesting than other people, I’m not intrigued by meeting them. I do recognize that they are more sensitive, but nothing more. I think some of them are good artists, but I don’t have any of their works because they don’t match my kind of sensitivity.

AAD: How would you define the trend in your collection?

I.L: There are three guidelines. One has to do with political art, Heredia, Distefano, Ontiveros, Piffer, Ferrari. Another is the line imposed by Gumier Maier at the Centro Cultural Rojas, beauty for beauty’s sake without commitments. The third has to do with a certain sexuality that moves away from the masculine axis. The second one is attached to the third one, there is a certain sensual feeling.

AAD: Are these three lines somehow an expression of your personality?

I.L: They are a mirror.

AAD: Then, your collection represents you.

I.L: Yes, my collection represents me. It wasn’t put together from a shopping list. I decide what to buy and if I’m not interested in the work, even if the artist afterwards becomes prestigious, I don’t buy it.

AAD: You don’t buy as an investment?

I.L: The collection was and is an excellent investment, but I never sought to make money from it. If someday I put the horse behind the cart, that is to say, if instead of choosing things because I like them I start to speculate, I will surely lose money. That’s when you start to lose sight of what’s important. 

AAD: Does the interest in art come from your family background?

I.L: Not at all.  It’s a self-interest. I don’t share this with my friends either. But what does happen is that they suddenly become enthusiastic and ask me for advice when it comes to buying something, and that’s good.

AAD: How is Argentine art considered abroad? 

I.L: They say it is very good, we have good artists. Some Argentine artists are beginning to insert themselves in the international mainstream, not far behind Mexico and Brazil. The only one that has an international position today is Kuitca. Then, from the young ones, Erlich, Macchi and Costantino are building a reputation. The problem is that there is no strategy to integrate our artists into the international circuit. There are isolated attempts, for example Orly Benzacar who goes to international fairs, but it has not been possible to put together a network that would enable the development of a connection with foreign museums and international curators.

AAD: Is there no help from state policies? 

I.L.: Nothing that is part of a long-term policy or strategy. In that sense Brazilian art is far more inserted worldwide.

AAD: Can art collectors help to reverse this situation?  

I.L.: Ultimately, the State is the one that has the initial responsibility for this role; it is the institution that has the tools and instruments to do so. However, if the State has no interest whatsoever, so be it… 

AAD: You know that collectors’ houses are almost transformed into private museums, visited by people coming from abroad. 

I.L.: Actually, this happens because there is no institution that displays a permanent collection of Argentine contemporary art. 

AAD: Are you interested in cultural affairs?

I.L: Yes, I am getting involved with politics in the PRO Party.

AAD: Is there any project you are working on in PRO that you can talk about? 

I.L: Yes, I think that now it’s a good moment to bring to the table and start discussing the tax laws that affect the art market in Argentina. We have just witnessed how a private museum that’s open to the public, the MALBA (Buenos Aires Museum of Latin American Art), had to give up part of its collection away to pay taxes in order to be able to bring artworks into the country and to enrich the country’s cultural heritage. New countries like ours, with short histories, should encourage an increase in cultural heritage.

AAD: Do fairs like arteBA help? 

I.L.: Yes, I started at arteBA. 

AAD: Do you go to artists’ workshops? 

I.L: I don’t go to workshops, I go to galleries. I think you can’t skip the gallery because it plays a key role and is very important. 

AAD: There are an enormous number of new galleries, such as Florencia Braga Menéndez, Alberto Sendrós, Zavaleta Lab. What is your opinion on this matter? 

I.L: The Argentine market is very small, it’s almost non-existent. My guess is that the market in Argentina moves around 15 to 20 million pesos a year, between auctions and galleries. The pet food market moves around 150 million pesos a year. Galleries have to attract people.

AAD: What would you do to attract more people?

I.L.: First, I would tell them to change the reproduction for the original work of art. If you look at it from an economic standpoint, once paid for, the print is already worth less, and it will never increase in value beyond what it was sold for. Second, if the works of young artists are bought, the price of the print on the market and the price of the young artist’s original work is not that far away. Londaibere’s works, for example, are worth the same as a print. And leaving aside the economic aspect, the pleasure of having an original cannot be compared to having a reproduction.

AAD: Does that have to do with an education in sensitivity?

I.L.: Yes, gallery owners have to do a much more active job. There are people who have a lot of money in Argentina.

AAD: For many people arteBA is an elitist fair with an expensive entrance fee. Can art be made more widespread and popular? 

I.L.: Yes. In London you have to queue up to see an exhibition and in Paris too. It’s a matter of thinking about how to sell the product.