Since co-founding Casa Dragones, her small tequila business, in 2009, Mexican entrepreneur Bertha González Nieves has infused the business with her love of art, beginning with the traditional Mexican art of wood burning. the “pepita” hand used to produce each numbered crystal sign and vial.
In addition to being certified as the first female maestra tequilera by the Academia Mexicana de Catadores de Tequila, Nieves is also a collector and patron. She is a member of the board of trustees of the Judd Foundation and of the executive council of the Museum of Food and Drink, and was previously part of the Latin American Art Initiative at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Nieves’ home in Mexico City is filled with a growing collection focused on Mexican art. Artists in his collections include Carlos Amorales, Pedro Friedeberg, Gardar Eide Einarsson, Sam Moyer, and Oaxaca-based artist and tattoo artist Dr. Lakra.
Artnet News recently spoke with Nieves about what inspires his acquisitions and how his home is an extension of his philosophy on art and style.
What was your first purchase (and how much did you pay for it)?
My first purchase was through the OMR gallery in Mexico City. The work is called Lluvia de Estrellas by Pablo Vargas Lugo. It’s a large mixed media collage on paper, and it’s one of the centerpieces of our home. I paid around $16,000.
What was your last purchase?
I recently purchased an ink on paper drawing by Abraham Cruzvillegas from Kurimanzutto [in Mexico City and New York]. Monica Manzutto personally selected the piece for me. I was lucky enough to meet him when we served Casa Dragones when it opened at the Tate Modern, and I’m delighted to own a piece of his.
What works or artists do you hope to add to your collection this year?
I would like to buy a work by Rirkrit Tiravanija. I love his work, and he’s become a great friend. Last year, Casa Dragones became an official partner of Art Basel Miami Beach, and we built a tasting room in the collectors’ lounge. Rikrit was one of our “art offerings”, creating a community bar art experience.
He created a recipe with a rim of powdered silver luster dust. All participants ended up with silver lips, which was the name of the cocktail. It was brilliant. I like his conceptual work based on the sharing of food and meals, but I would also like to have a piece that I can display at home.
What is the most expensive work of art you own?
Probably Gabriel Orozco – I have one of his “obituaries”. I don’t just think about prizes, however, when I think about art, it’s about people. I have known Gabriel for a long time now. We became friends when he asked us to serve Casa Dragones during his retrospective which toured New York, France, London and Switzerland. [from 2009 to 2011].
Where do you most often buy art?
I’m lucky to have good friends in the art world, so I sometimes rely on them for recommendations. I usually buy from their galleries, like Cristobal Riestra from OMR, Alissa Friedman from Salon 94 [in New York]Casey Kaplan from his gallery [in New York]and Pamela Echeverría from Labor [in Mexico City].
Recently I purchased an up-and-coming artist, Jonathan Miralda Fuksman, through a friend, Marco Rountree, at Guadalajara90210.
Is there a work you regret buying?
Never. I’ve learned that the best part of buying art is that it always fills you with life.
What work have you hung above your couch? And in your bathroom?
At home in the Springs, I placed an artwork by Melanie Smith above the couch. I met Melanie through OMR; she is a British artist who moved to Mexico. It’s a large abstract painting in a very bright pink, and it completely lights up the room with a lot of energy… I love it.
In my bathroom I have a work by Hadley Hudson, an American photographer based in Los Angeles and Berlin. It is a somewhat daring black and white photograph.
What’s the least practical piece of art you own?
It would probably be a work by Elisa Sighicelli that I bought through Gagosian. This is a C-print mounted on a lightbox called Iceland: Kitchen, 2001. I really like the work, but it’s currently wired for the EU. I have to do it again this year – it’s on my bucket list!
What work would you have liked to buy when you had the opportunity?
Well, that would be a very long list. For me, it’s about collecting stories, and those stories come from the experiences I’ve had in my life, with my family, my friends, and at work. Over the years I have become friends with Danh Vo, Pedro Reyes and Gabriel Orozco, all of whom have designed Artist Edition bottles with Casa Dragones Joven. The collaborations are born of friendship and mutual respect. I sometimes wish I had met them 20 years ago, so I could have started collecting their work then.
If you could steal one piece of art without getting caught, what would it be?
Of course, I could never imagine stealing anything because I prefer my collection to be based on genuine knowledge of the artist. In this regard, it would have been incredible to have known Frida Kahlo. As the most important Latin American female artist in our history, as a feminist icon and as a tequila lover, it would be a dream to own a work by her.
What does art represent for you?
For me, art is about telling stories. Every room in my house has a particular story, whether it’s from the artist, the gallery, or my own connection to the room. This is one of the reasons I love collecting art from artists and galleries I have a relationship with; it makes sense to me.
What does style mean to you? How do you define the relationship between art and style?
Style is inherently personal. Everyone has their own tastes, both in fashion and in art. My personal style is my own interpretation of fashion, not what everyone wears. The same goes for the art I love – my taste is defined by the story that appeals to me, rather than market forces.
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