Jorge M. Pérez started collecting art almost 50 years ago, when he was in college. His collection, which focuses on contemporary art with an emphasis on the work of artists from Latin America, the United States, and Africa, currently numbers over 1,000 pieces—not including the hundreds he and his wife, Darlene, have donated to museums over the years. Over the summer, ARTnews caught up with Pérez.
How has your collecting changed during the coronavirus lockdown?
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I have been actively collecting, and our acquisition process has been extremely varied and diverse. We remain in close contact with all the galleries with which we’d established relationships, but we’ve also gotten to know many new galleries, many of which are smaller and working with young and emerging talent. I’ve had the opportunity to concentrate on very specific aspects of the collection—particularly Cuban art and contemporary African and African Diaspora art—but it has also opened up an entirely new digital art world for us.
I have joined numerous Zoom studio visits and have participated in just as many live programs on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. I think this is an incredible opportunity for students, young collectors, and the general public to have this close interaction with amazing artists from around the world. There were several instances in which these virtual studio visits made me fall in love with artwork that had not really caught my attention in the typical PDF summary galleries use, as was the case with Gisela McDaniel, a young artist working in Detroit.
We have also found some very interesting opportunities in the secondary market—platforms like Artsy do a great job of consolidating auctions in one place. Online research also allows us to get to know lesser-known auction houses, particularly those in Europe and South Africa.
What has been your philanthropic response to the pandemic?
I’ve long been working to support creatives, but we’ve redoubled our efforts over recent months. On the collection’s side, we’re continuing to purchase art, both from local and U.S. artists, but also abroad in countries like Spain, Colombia, South Africa, and Cuba. Through our foundation, the Jorge M. Pérez Family Foundation, we’ve established a number of philanthropic programs and most recently partnered with the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs to launch the Miami-Dade Artists Support! (MÁS!) Grants Program, which provided relief to artists whose lives and livelihood were placed in jeopardy due to the pandemic. There is still a lot more work to be done, and we are committed to making it happen.
What do you think of the shift to online viewing rooms? How was your experience using them?
I’ve developed an appreciation for the transparency the digital art world has to offer, as prices are more readily available. I think this has gone a long way toward making the art world a bit less intimidating, thus opening it up to a much broader audience.
It is also great to be able to visit a particular piece or gallery repeatedly and at my leisure—it’s helped me notice new exciting names that I am sure to revisit in the future.
What new artists did you discover online?
To name a few, Israeli artist Zoya Cherkassky-Nnadi and New York–based artist Christopher Myers, both via Fort Gansevoort gallery in New York and Los Angeles, as well as South African artist Simphiwe Ndzube at Nicodim Gallery in L.A.
What is one thing you miss about the in-person art world?
I miss being able to travel and I genuinely miss the human interaction with the artists and gallerists. Nothing can replace having a great conversation with talented individuals over a meal or a drink. I am hopeful that we will be able to do that again in the near future.
A version of this article appears in the Fall 2020 issue of ARTnews, under the title “Supporting Artists, Discovering Talent.”