The billionaire real estate developer and art collector Jorge Pérez and his wife Darlene Boytell-Pérez have more than 1,000 works by contemporary and Modern Latin American artists, including Roberto Matta, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Over the last decade, the Buenos Aires-born collector has made significant donations to the Pérez Art Museum, Miami (Pamm), the Herzog & de Meuron-designed museum on Biscayne Bay that was renamed in 2013 in recognition of his contributions. In 2016, Pérez gave the museum $10m, along with more than 200 works of art from his collection. Last year, he helped to launch Pamm’s Latin American and Latinx Art Fund, an initiative created to support the museum’s future exhibitions and programming. Pérez also supports the National YoungArts Foundation, the Frost Art Museum at Florida International University and the Miami International Film Festival.
The Art Newspaper: What was the first work you bought?
Jorge Pérez: A lithograph by Man Ray that I purchased in 1970 with the winnings of a dorm room poker game in college—a payout that kicked off my lifelong passion for collecting. The piece still hangs in my office, a daily reminder of where I started and why I collect art.
What is your most recent buy?
A neon by Hank Willis Thomas.
What is your preferred way of buying art?
I prefer galleries I have an established relationship with and who represent my favourite artists. Working with local galleries also allows me the opportunity to communicate with the artists themselves, which is priceless. Sometimes I buy from the auction houses, especially if it is a piece I have been following for a while.
What is the most valuable piece in your collection?
A triptych by Joan Mitchell that is currently on display at Pamm. The piece is called Iva and was painted in 1973, when she started working out of her large studio in France.
If money were no object, what would be your dream purchase?
The large Water Lilies by Claude Monet, at the Musée de l’Orangerie.
Which work do you regret not buying when you had the chance?
Diego Rivera’s Calla Lily Vendor came to auction about 20 years ago… I lost by one bid!
If your house was on fire, which work would you save?
Helen Frankenthaler’s Vanilla or Frank Stella’s Scramble. We installed both in our master bedroom. Staring at each from bed is my new favourite way to relax.
Which of all the works in your collection requires the most maintenance?
We have a Niki de Saint Phalle sculpture right on Biscayne Bay. The rain and salty air makes round-the-clock maintenance and attention a requirement. It brings so much life and colour to our collection, so it is worth the trouble. We also have a work on paper that Raymond Pettibon and Marcel Dzama collaborated on. It is installed in one of my office’s hallways and requires considerable care, but is a showstopper.
What is the most surprising place you have displayed a work?
The walls of my master bathroom feature many pieces I am fond of. Truth is, we have pieces in every inch of the house, from the stairwells to the bathrooms and even the closets. We love to live with art.
Which artists, dead or alive, would you invite to your dream dinner party?
I am going to pick ones who have passed, or else I would have a lot of artist friends upset by exclusion. Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo are two of my dream dinner guests: intelligent, emotional and wild!
What is the best collecting advice you have been given?
Don’t buy right away when you see a work, let it sink in and think of it for the long-term. With that said, I only wish that I followed my advice more often...