Patricia Phelps de Cisneros

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Patricia Phelps de Cisneros
Patricia Phelps de Cisneros
Born Patricia Phelps
Caracas, Venezuela
Nationality Venezuelan
Other names Patty Cisneros
Alma mater Wheaton College
Occupation Art Collector
Years active 1970s-present
Organization Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros
Spouse(s) Gustavo Cisneros
Children 3
Parent(s) Miriam Louise Parker
William Walther Phelps
Relatives William H. Phelps Jr. (grandfather)
William H. Phelps Sr. (great grandfather)
Website Colecció

Patricia "Patty" Phelps de Cisneros is a Venezuelan art collector and philanthropist who focuses on Latin American modernist and contemporary art from Brazil, Venezuela, and the Río de la Plata region of Argentina and Uruguay.[1][2] Since the 1970s Cisneros has supported education and the arts, with a particular focus on Latin America. Along with her husband, Gustavo A. Cisneros, she founded the New York City and Caracas-based Fundación Cisneros. In the 1990s the Fundación’s primary art-related program became the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros.[3] In 2016, Cisneros donated 102 modern and contemporary artworks from the 1940s to 1990s to the Museum of Modern Art, establishing the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Research Institute for the Study of Art from Latin America at MoMA.[2]

Early life[edit]

Cisneros was born in Venezuela to mother, Miriam Louise Parker, and father, William Walther Phelps, a businessman, her paternal great-grandfather was a noted businessman and ornithologist, William H. Phelps, Sr.. In 1953, William Henry Phelps and his son William H. Phelps Jr. started the first radio station in Venezuela, Radio Caracas Televisión Internacional (RCTV Internacional).[4]

Cisneros received a BA in Philosophy from Wheaton College, Massachusetts, where she studied the educational philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead.

In 2003, Cisneros was awarded an honorary degree, an Honoris Causa degree in Fine Arts, from Wheaton College.[5]

She was an MA candidate at NYU’s Gallatin School, and was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in 2015.


In her twenties, Cisneros became the founder and director of the language department of the Simon Bolívar University, Caracas. There, she developed an innovative audio-visual approach to teaching foreign languages, she also worked with Accion International and was a founding contributor of AVEPANE (Asociación Venezolana de Padres y Amigos de Niños Excepcionales).[3]

Through the Fundación Cisneros, Patricia and Gustavo Cisneros launched a number of education initiatives: in Venezuela, a literacy program called ACUDE benefited over 300,000 citizens, and the Centro Mozarteum provided scholarships to young people to study classical music, the Fundación Cisneros also created Cl@se, an educational television channel that reached over two million homes from Argentina to Mexico; AME, an international professional development program for teachers conducted through distance-learning; and Piensa en Arte, a methodological model for teaching critical thinking skills.[3]

Currently, the Fundación Cisneros provides professional development in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic with the online platform called Tu Clase, tu país.[6]

Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros[edit]

In the 1970s, during her travels across Latin America with her husband, Cisneros spent her time visiting artists in their studios and seeing art in local galleries and museums, and began actively purchasing and collecting artwork.[7] Primarily collecting indigenous work during frequent expeditions through Venezuela, especially around the Orinoco in the Amazon River Basin.[3]

As her collection grew, Cisneros saw that Latin American art was under-represented in the international art community, so the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros (CPPC) was formed in the 1990s, with a goal of bringing visibility and impact to the way Latin American art history is viewed and appreciated. That effort has included a four-pronged approach: An ambitious approach to lending artworks around the world, working with scholars and academics to learn more about the artists and their works, the creation of a publications program to provide supporting information about the artists and their work, and building an online forum for the artwork.[1]

The CPPC is best-known for its collection of Modernist geometric abstraction from Latin America and also comprises holdings of Latin American landscapes by traveler artists to Latin America in the 17th to 19th centuries; furniture and art from Latin America’s colonial period; contemporary art from Latin America; and an important group of art and artifacts from indigenous peoples of Venezuela’s Amazonas region, the Orinoco Collection. The mission of the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros is to enhance appreciation of the diversity, sophistication, and range of art from Latin America.[3]

Gradually, Cisneros began acquiring geometric abstract artwork that had been under-appreciated, it gradually grew into a significant holding of 20th century Latin American abstract art.[3] She has appeared on “top collector lists every year since 1998.[8] Cisneros has been lending her collections to international exhibitions and institutions since 1999.[9]

Cisneros credits her understanding of the importance of stewardship as a collector to her great-grandfather, William H Phelps, who meticulously cataloged his ornithological collection, she has said that her aesthetic developed as a result of having grown up in the modernist society of Caracas in the 1950s and 1960s.[10]

Cisneros has had a long-term relationship with the Museum of Modern Art in New York,[11] the 2016 donation of 102 modern and contemporary Latin American artworks from the 1940s to 1990s to the Museum of Modern Art, which establishes the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Research Institute for the Study of Art from Latin America at MoMA, join the previous donation by Colección Cisneros of over 40 other previously donated works.[2] The gift is meant to be transformative and impactful on how Latin American art is valued and recognized globally, the gift includes works by Lygia Clark, Lygia Pape, Jesús Rafael Soto, Alejandro Otero, and Tomás Maldonado. Additional highlights are works by Willys de Castro, Hélio Oiticica, Juan Mele, Mira Schendel, and Gego.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Cisneros has been married to Gustavo Cisneros since 1970,[1] they have three children: Guillermo Cisneros, Carolina Cisneros de Rodríguez, and Adriana Cisneros, who is CEO and Vice Chairman of Grupo Cisneros.[4]

Boards and memberships[edit]

Current work
  • 2016–present: Fundação Bienal de São Paulo, São Paulo Art Biennial (São Paulo, Brasil). Founding International Advisory Board member
  • 2015–present: Círculo Internacional de la Escuela de Música Reina Sofía, Museo Reina Sofía, (Madrid, Spain). International Patron
  • 2015–present: The Feuerle Collection (Berlin, Germany). Founding member, International Ambassadors[12]
  • 2014–present: Fundación Museo Reina Sofía, Museo Reina Sofía (Madrid, Spain). 2014–present: Founding Patron; 2015–present: Nominating and Governance Committee[13]
  • 2011–present: Museum Berggruen (Berlin, Germany). International Council
  • 2007–present: Patronato Internacional del Museo del Prado, Museo del Prado (Madrid, Spain). Founding International Trustee
  • 2004–present: Aspen Institute (Aspen, Colorado). 2004–present: Art Advisory Committee; 2004-2010: Society of Fellows, Presidential level[14]
  • 2001–present: Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts). Committee to Visit the Harvard University Art Museums[15]
  • 1992–present: Museum of Modern Art (New York, New York). Trustee; 2006: Founder and Chair, MoMA’s Latin American and Caribbean Fund; Member of other MoMA Committees
  • 1986–present: Americas Society (New York, New York). The Americas Society was known as the Center for Inter-American Relations until October 16, 1986. 1981–present: Board of Directors;[16] 1985–present: Chairman’s International Council; 1986–present: Cultural Council Committee
Past work
  • 2011-2014: Association Centre Pompidou América Latina, Centre Georges Pompidou (París, France). Founding Member
  • 2011-2014: American Friends of the Fondation Beyeler, Beyeler Foundation (Basel, Switzerland). Member
  • 2009-2017: International Committee of International Council of Museums (ICOM) for Museums and Collections of Modern Art (CIMAM). Founding Member
  • 2004-2006: UBS (New York, New York). Art Advisory Board
  • 2003-2014: Tate (London, England). 2003-2014: Founding member of Latin American Acquisitions Committee; 2003-2008: International Council
  • 1998-2012: Casita Maria (New York, New York). 1998-2008: Board member; 2008-2012: Chairman’s Council[17]
  • 1997-2003: Programa Andes Tropicales (Mérida, Venezuela). Founding member, Board of Directors
  • 1997-2000: Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery, University of Texas at Austin (Austin, Texas). Latin American Advisory Group
  • 1994-2011: Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts). 1994: Founding board member; 1998-2011: Advisory Committee, David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies[15]
  • 1992-1996: Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, New York). Chairman’s Council
  • 1991: Escuela Superior de Música Reina Sofía, Museo Reina Sofía. Founding Patron[18]
  • 1987-1990: Sinfonietta Caracas (Caracas, Venezuela). Advisory Board
  • 1985-1993: New York Botanical Garden (New York, New York). Board member
  • 1980-1983: Just One Break (JOB) (New York, New York). Board Member
  • 1970-1980: Museo de Bellas Artes (Caracas, Venezuela). Board member and member of the Friends of the Museo de Bellas Artes

Honors and awards[edit]

  • 2017: Leo Award − Independent Curators International[19]
  • 2017: Recipient − Premio Iberoamericano de Mecenazgo (Madrid, Spain)[20]
  • 2015: Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters Degree − Graduate Center of the City University of New York (New York, New York)
  • 2015: Medalla de Oro al Mérito en las Bellas Artes − Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte de España (Spain)
  • 2013: The Gran Cruz de la Orden Civil de Alfonso X el SabioMonarchy of Spain (Spain)[21]
  • 2013: Distinguished Service in the Arts award − ArtTable (New York, New York)[22]
  • 2010: The Iris Foundation Award − Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture (New York, New York)[23]
  • 2008: The Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney Award for Outstanding Patronage of the Arts − Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (New York, New York)
  • 2008: Americas Society’s Gold Medal − Americas Society (New York, New York)[24]
  • 2005: Recipient, medals of Honor, Ministry of Culture, Colombia, for work in promoting education and culture in Latin America (2 medals: Senado de la República, Orden del Congreso de Colombia en el grado de Cemendados; and Camara de la Democracia Simón Bolivar en el grado cruz de comendador)
  • 2003: Honorary degrees in Fine Arts − Wheaton College, (Norton, Massachusetts)[25]
  • 2002: Cross of Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur − Republic of France
  • 2000: Leone d’Oro di San Marco, awarded to the Colección Orinoco program area of the Fundación Cisneros[26]
  • 1999: Order of Simón Bolívar, Venezuela
  • 1991: Order of Francisco de Miranda (Caracas, Venezuela) − Venezuelan government. Granted to citizens who have exemplified outstanding merits (logros excepcionales como ciudadano)
  • 1986: Order of Good Citizen (Caracas, Venezuela) − City Council of Caracas. Granted for community leadership.
  • 1986: Order of Andrés Bello (Caracas, Venezuela) − Venezuelan government. Granted in recognition of her contribution to the cultural development of the country (en reconocimiento a su contribución al desarollo cultural de país), Band of Honor, first class

Works and publications[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Chapter 1: Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, A Passion for Latin America" (Video). Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros. 16 October 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d Lowry, Glenn; Cisneros, Patricia Phelps de (17 October 2016). "MoMA Cisneros Gift Announcement". Museum of Modern Art. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Founder: Patricia Phelps de Cisneros". Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros. 
  4. ^ a b Yearwood, John (1 February 2012). "Adriana Cisneros - Interview with The World Desk The Miami Herald". Miami Herald. 
  5. ^ "2003: Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, Honorary Degree Recipient". Wheaton College. 
  6. ^ "Aliados: Fundación Cisneros Venezuela - República Dominicana". Tu clase, tu país. 
  7. ^ De Diego, Estrella (2 December 2015). "Obsesión por la obra maestra". El País (in Spanish). 
  8. ^ "The artnet News Index: Top 100 Collectors, Part One. 18. Patricia Phelps de Cisneros (Venezuela and Dominican Republic)". Artnet News. 13 June 2016. 
  9. ^ "The Top 200 Collectors: Patricia Phelps de Cisneros and Gustavo A. Cisneros". ARTnews. 2016. 
  10. ^ Cisneros, Patricia Phelps de (6 September 2016). "Reinvention: Collector as Custodian". Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros. 
  11. ^ García, Ángeles (24 February 2016). "Las colecciones privadas hacen museos públicos". El País (in Spanish). 
  12. ^ "The Feuerle Collection: International Ambassadors". The Feuerle Collection. 
  13. ^ "Patronato de la Fundación Museo Reina Sofía" (PDF). Fundación Museo Reina Sofía. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. 2015. p. 16. 
  14. ^ "The Aspen Institute: 2011 Overview and 2010 Annual Report. Society of Fellows as of December 31, 2010" (PDF). The Aspen Institute. 31 December 2010. p. 54. 
  15. ^ a b "Annual Report (July 2000- June 2001): Latin American Art at Harvard" (PDF). David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies. Harvard University. 2001. pp. 19–20. 
  16. ^ "AS Board of Directors". Americas Society Council of the Americas. 
  17. ^ "Fiesta! 2015". Casita Maria. 2015. 
  18. ^ "Mecenas de la Nueva Sede: De Las Butacas". Escuela Superior de Música Reina Sofía. 
  19. ^ Durón, Maximilíano (28 April 2017). "Independent Curators International’s 2017 Leo Award Will Go to Patricia Phelps de Cisneros | ARTnews". ARTnews. 
  20. ^ Reviriego, Carmen (2 February 2017). "Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, la gran mecenas del arte iberoamericano". Expansión (in Spanish). 
  21. ^ "Patricia Phelps, Gran Cruz de la Orden Civil de Alfonso X El Sabio – Descubrir el Arte, la revista líder de arte en español". Descubrir el Arte. 2 April 2014. 
  22. ^ "The Distinguished Service to the Visual Arts Award". ArtTable. 
  23. ^ "Iris Foundation Awards Luncheon for Outstanding Contributions to the Decorative Arts". Bard Graduate Center. 14 April 2010. 
  24. ^ "Patricia Phelps De Cisneros, Carlos Fuentes, and Peter Munk Honored at Americas Society 28th Annual Spring Party". Americas Society. 6 June 2008. 
  25. ^ Bolton, Michele Morgan (20 January 2008). "Alumna's cache of Latin-American art". The Boston Globe. 
  26. ^ "Patricia Phelps de Cisneros". Fundació Art i Mecenatge: AiM. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]