Real estate developer Ron Pizzuti, chairman and CEO of the Pizzuti Companies, began collecting Cuban contemporary art during a trip to the island in 2009. At the time, he and his wife Ann had already assembled a prominent collection of modern and contemporary art, which includes important works by Frank Stella, Agnes Martin, and Jean Dubuffet, among others. He has for many years been named to ArtNews magazine’s annual list of 200 Top Collectors.
Last fall, Pizzuti opened the Pizzuti Collection, an 18,000-square-foot museum in Columbus, Ohio. Among the opening exhibitions: Cuban Forever, drawn from his holdings of contemporary Cuban art. Howard Farber, publisher of Cuban Art News, co-founder of its sponsoring organization, the Farber Foundation, and a longtime collector of Cuban art himself, interviewed Ron Pizzuti via email.
Why do you collect art, and how did you find your way to Cuban contemporary art?
Collecting art has evolved naturally over a period of time. I enjoy being around good art and enjoy the process of discovering new works. The relationships that have developed with artists, dealers, and other collectors have contributed to the process of becoming passionate about owning works.
What’s the first piece of Cuban art you acquired?
The first piece I purchased was a fish-hook painting of the Brooklyn Bridge overlooking the New York skyline, by Yoan Capote.
Roughly what time period does your Cuban art collection cover? Within that time frame, is the collection weighted toward a specific period?
My passion for collecting centers around contemporary works, and the Cuban collection comes from living artists—specifically, works that have been produced during the last 20 years. The only exception is work of Raúl Martínez. His paintings, drawings, and photographs are an important part of our Cuban collection. Michael Eastman’s wonderful photographs of Havana have complemented the Cuban works.
What do you think is the strength of the collection—the area you think it’s strongest in?
In general, the strength of the collection centers around abstract painting. With respect to the Cuban collection specifically, we have chosen what we believe is the best work of the individual artists that are available.
Do you have a favorite work of Cuban art in the collection?
Because if the varied nature of the works it is not possible to single out a favorite artist. Each of them brings something differing to the collection.
What work or artist are you thinking of buying next? Why?
René Pena and Michel Pérez Pollo look great and will most likely become part of the collection.
Tell us a little about your museum. How did it come about? How does Cuban art figure into it?
The Pizzuti Collection focuses in the works that we have collected during the last forty years. It came about because most of our collection has been stored in warehouses and we decided that it was time to share our passion with the public. Forever Cuban is one of the three focuses of the inaugural exhibitions. The Cuban works occupy the main floor of the galleries and includes work from artists living and working in Cuba as well as Cubans and Cuban Americans residing In the United States, Mexico, and Europe. Included in the collection are: Yoan Capote, Raul Cordero, Glenda León, Alex Arrechea, Los Carpinteros, Enrique Martínez Celaya, Teresita Fernández, Roberto Diago, Sandra Ceballos, Adonis Flores, Ricardo Elias and José Toirac, Duvier del Dago, Alberto Casato, Rocío García, Douglas Pérez, Manuel Mendive, Sandra Ramos, Tony Mendoza, Reynier Leyva Novo, Eduardo Ponjuan, and many others.
Will the museum present only work from your collection? Or will it organize or present exhibitions with Cuban art from other sources?
At this time, we will be showing only work from the Pizzuti Collection.
How much of your Cuban art collection do you display at the museum? Do you also display pieces in your home?
Most of the works by Cuban artists are being shown in the current exhibition. We also show Cuban art in our home and office.
Cuban Forever is scheduled to close at the Pizzuti Collection at the end of this week, on June 21. What’s the next show of Cuban art at the museum, and when will it open?
We do not at this time have an exhibition planned dedicated to Cuban art. We do, however, have works by Cuban artists in our forthcoming exhibitions. Our fall 2015 show will feature Roberto Diago among others. These shows have yet to be announced.
Are there other private collections of Cuban art that you like or admire?
I admire the depth and quality of the Farber Collection.
Thank you. I wasn’t fishing for compliments but appreciate it all the same. But tell us: Where do you see the market for Cuban art in five to ten years?
The future of the market for Cuban art will depend on when access to the country opens to collectors from around the world—especially the United States. Once the collector group gets exposure to the depth of the works being produced in Cuba and realizes the passion that the Cuban artists have for producing good works, the Cuban market should become more important. The Cuban artists will also need to enjoy the freedom to travel so that they can enjoy the benefit, shared by artists from around the world, that allows freedom of expression. There is a wealth of talent in Cuba, and Cuban artists are beginning to be recognized for the good work that they are producing.
You’re a juror for the first Cuban Art Awards, which will be announced in January 2015. Why did you decide to participate? What impact do you think the Awards will have on the field?
I am thrilled to have been chosen as a juror for the first Cuban Art Awards and agreed to participate because of your involvement, Howard, and because of my interest in expanding our Cuban collection of works from both the professional Cuban artist community as well as from the talent that the Cuban art schools are producing. The quality of instruction from the faculty of Havana’s Instituto Superior de Artes has resulted in a group of young artists producing outstanding work. The awards could open opportunities for undiscovered talent.