Nearly a dozen new pieces acquired at Art Basel will be on display at Rollins.
Gonzalo Fuenmayor, God Bless Latin America, 2013, charcoal on paper. The Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art. Gift of Barbara '68 and Theodore' 68 Alfond, Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College. (Photo by Scott Cook) In 1970, three gallery owners in Basel, Switzerland, founded Art Basel. It was an instant success. The inaugural art show featured exhibits from 90 galleries and 30 publishers from 10 countries and attracted 16,300 visitors. It has since grown and now includes shows in Miami Beach and Hong Kong. The event has a reputation for energizing, thought-provoking art that continually pushes the boundaries of what art is—and what it should be.
In December, representatives from Rollins’ Cornell Fine Arts Museum visited the art fairs in Miami Beach. During the trip, staff met with Barbara’68 and Ted ’68 Alfond who purchased pieces for the Museum. “Our sole purpose, in fact, was to consider art for the permanent collection of the Museum, with, in most cases, each piece having its debut at the Inn,” says Barbara, who is helping expand the collection.
The trip yielded an astonishing 11 purchases, and as of February 28, visitors to The Alfond Inn can view nine of the new art pieces. The remaining two, Hilario and Hector Waiting for their Check and Portrait of an Affluent Family by Ramiro Gomez, were purchased by the Museum from acquisition funds, and will be on display at CFAM this summer.
“These acquisitions signify how The Alfond Collection is reflective of current trends and includes many of the most significant artists working today,” says Amy Galpin, the curator at CFAM. She points out that the purchase of the work, God Bless Latin America by Colombian-born Miami resident Gonzalo Fuenmayor, “allows the museum to talk about immigration, the negotiation of identity, and the potential assimilation that occurs through the Hollywood film industry.”
Galpin notes that the presence of Latino and Latin American artists in the CFAM and The Alfond Inn collections is growing, with gifts from Ted and Barbara Alfond that include four prints and a video by Cuban artist Sandra Ramos, and the purchase by the museum of two acrylic works on paper by Gomez, an LA-based Mexican-American artist. “The collection will continue to grow in many ways, but seeing the addition of works that specifically deal with immigration by Latin American and Latino artists marks a significant moment,” Galpin says.
Alfond says that while the “wall power”—or the visual impact of a piece—was a factor, the context of each work purchased at Art Basel was key. “When we were attracted to something by its wall power, we each went through our own mental checklist and then engaged in lively discussion: Did it fill a need? Did it add depth? Did it carry out our original theme of literacy, and, given the many inventive practices we saw, could a specific piece foster a discussion of how art is made?”
Excellent questions all—and questions that any art collector would be wise to ask before purchasing according to their own personal themes and goals. And of course, there’s the question of love. Pieces that speak to the heart in addition to the mind could arguably be considered the most successful works of all. Alfond is especially fond of one of the Art Basel purchases, a red, painted-metal sculpture by the Swiss artist Olaf Breuning entitled Tired. The piece is the outline of a person framed by the words, “I DONT KNOW HOW LONG I HAVE TO STAND HERE BUT I AM ALREADY TIRED.” Says Alfond of the work, “I love its link to many of our text-based pieces, and I love its humor. The plan is for it to be installed outside of CFAM, and we hope it will be a magnet for kids who visit the museum—and for their parents and teachers.”
Jay Heikes, Philosopher's Stone, 2013, burlap, paper, ink and aluminum. The Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art. Gift of Barbara '68 and Theodore' 68 Alfond, Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College. (Photo by Scott Cook)
Text-based pieces are a very important component of The Alfond Collection, and care was taken during the Art Basel trip to seek out pieces that connected to that theme, that would spark discussion, and that complemented the existing works. One complementary piece is Overhead of NSA, a large photograph by Trevor Paglen of the NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland, which appeared in the February 11, 2014 issue of TIME magazine.
The piece “joins several previously acquired Paglen works,” Alfond says. “It is the desire of most museums to have depth in an artist’s practice, and this recent piece continues Paglen’s ongoing investigation of the relationship between government institutions and a government’s citizens—a topic ripe for discussion on college campuses. As an image, it’s both glorious and eerie.”
“Some of the works relate quite specifically,” Galpin says. She cites the four new works by Imi Knoebel, Face 28, Face 1, Face 6, Face 11, “as wonderful complements to the large paintings by the artist already on view at the Inn.”
The pieces in The Alfond Collection are designed to provoke response and promote dialogue, and these new acquisitions from Art Basel, as well as other recent purchases, will “continue the narrative threads of The Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art,” says Ena Heller, Bruce A. Beal director of the Cornell Fine Arts Museum. “The collection as a whole can be considered a visual syllabus for the liberal arts, and for our students, a lesson in the art of today.”