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 and education[edit]

Cisneros was born in Venezuela to Miriam Louise Parker and 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] The Cisneros Institute will be located in a dedicated space at the current MoMA campus in midtown Manhattan.[12]

In January 2018, it was announced that more than 200 artworks, many from contemporary artists, would be donated by the collection to six institutions with whom Cisneros has had long-term relationships: the Museum of Modern Art; the Bronx Museum of the Arts; the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, Spain; the Museo de Arte Moderno in Buenos Aires, Argentina; the Museo de Arte de Lima in Lima, Peru; and the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas, Austin in Austin, Texas. The gifts include works by Amalia Pica, Jac Leirner, Luis Camnitzer, and Regina José Galindo.[13][14]

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
  • 1986–present: Americas Society (New York, New York). Cultural Council Committee
  • 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
  • 2001–present: Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts). Committee to Visit the Harvard University Art Museums[15]
  • 2004–present: Aspen Institute (Aspen, Colorado). 2004–present: Art Advisory Committee; 2004-2010: Society of Fellows, Presidential level[16]
  • 2011–present: Museum Berggruen (Berlin, Germany). International Council
  • 2014–present: Fundación Museo Reina Sofía, Museo Reina Sofía (Madrid, Spain). 2014–present: Founding Patron; 2015–present: Nominating and Governance Committee[17]
  • 2015–present: The Feuerle Collection (Berlin, Germany). Founding member, International Ambassadors[18]
  • 2015–present: Círculo Internacional de la Escuela de Música Reina Sofía, Museo Reina Sofía, (Madrid, Spain). International Patron
  • 2016–present: Fundação Bienal de São Paulo, São Paulo Art Biennial (São Paulo, Brasil). Founding International Advisory Board member
  • 2017–present: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston, Massachusetts). Member, Denman Waldo Ross Society at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Past work
  • 1970-1980: Museo de Bellas Artes (Caracas, Venezuela). Board member and member of the Friends of the Museo de Bellas Artes
  • 1980-1983: Just One Break (JOB) (New York, New York). Board Member
  • 1985-1993: New York Botanical Garden (New York, New York). Board member
  • 1986–2017: Americas Society (New York, New York). 1981–2017: Board of Directors;[19] 1985–2017: Chairman’s International Council
  • 1987-1990: Sinfonietta Caracas (Caracas, Venezuela). Advisory Board
  • 1991: Escuela Superior de Música Reina Sofía, Museo Reina Sofía. Founding Patron[20]
  • 1992-1996: Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, New York). Chairman’s Council
  • 1994-2011: Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts). 1994: Founding board member; 1998-2011: Advisory Committee, David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies[15]
  • 1997-2000: Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery, University of Texas at Austin (Austin, Texas). Latin American Advisory Group
  • 1997-2003: Programa Andes Tropicales (Mérida, Venezuela). Founding member, Board of Directors
  • 1998-2012: Casita Maria (New York, New York). 1998-2008: Board member; 2008-2012: Chairman’s Council[21]
  • 2003-2014: Tate (London, England). 2003-2014: Founding member of Latin American Acquisitions Committee; 2003-2008: International Council
  • 2004-2006: UBS (New York, New York). Art Advisory Board
  • 2007–2017: Patronato Internacional del Museo del Prado, Museo del Prado (Madrid, Spain). Founding International Trustee
  • 2009-2017: International Committee of International Council of Museums (ICOM) for Museums and Collections of Modern Art (CIMAM). Founding Member
  • 2011-2014: American Friends of the Fondation Beyeler, Beyeler Foundation (Basel, Switzerland). Member
  • 2011-2014: Association Centre Pompidou América Latina, Centre Georges Pompidou (París, France). Founding Member

Honors and awards[edit]

  • 1986: Order of Andrés Bello (Caracas, Venezuela) – Granted by Venezuelan government in recognition of contribution to the cultural development of the country (en reconocimiento a su contribución al desarollo cultural de país), Band of Honor, first class
  • 1986: Order of Good Citizen (Caracas, Venezuela) − Granted by City Council of Caracas for community leadership
  • 1991: Order of Francisco de Miranda (Caracas, Venezuela) – Granted by Venezuelan government to citizens who have exemplified outstanding merits (logros excepcionales como ciudadano)
  • 1999: Order of Simón Bolívar, Venezuela
  • 2000: Leone d’Oro di San Marco, awarded to the Colección Orinoco program area of the Fundación Cisneros[22]
  • 2002: Cross of Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur – Granted by Republic of France
  • 2003: Wheaton College (Norton, Massachusetts), Honorary degrees in Fine Arts[23]
  • 2005: Recipient, medals of Honor – Granted by 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)
  • 2008: Americas Society (New York, New York), Americas Society’s Gold Medal[24]
  • 2008: Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (New York, New York), The Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney Award for Outstanding Patronage of the Arts
  • 2010: Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture (New York, New York), The Iris Foundation Award[25]
  • 2013: ArtTable (New York, New York), Distinguished Service in the Arts award[26]
  • 2013: The Gran Cruz de la Orden Civil de Alfonso X el Sabio – Granted by Monarchy of Spain (Spain)[27]
  • 2015: Medalla de Oro al Mérito en las Bellas Artes – Granted by Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte de España (Spain)
  • 2015: Graduate Center of the City University of New York (New York, New York), Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters Degree
  • 2017: Premio Iberoamericano de Mecenazgo (Madrid, Spain)[28]
  • 2017: Independent Curators International, Leo Award[29]

Works and publications[edit]

  • Cisneros, Patricia Phelps de (2016). "Reinvention: Collector as Custodian". In Holo, Selma; Alvarez, Mari-Tere. Remix: Changing Conversations in Museums of the Americas. Oakland, California: University of California Press. pp. 200–203. ISBN 978-0-52-028452-4. OCLC 921821810.

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. ^ "Research Resources: Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Research Institute". Museum of Modern Art.
  13. ^ Chow, Andrew R. (2018). "Over 200 Latin American Artworks Are Headed to MoMA and Other Museums". The New York Times.
  14. ^ García, Ángeles (10 January 2018). "Patricia Phelps dona a seis museos 202 obras de arte latinoamericano". El País (in Spanish).
  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. ^ "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.
  17. ^ "Patronato de la Fundación Museo Reina Sofía" (PDF). Fundación Museo Reina Sofía. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. 2015. p. 16.
  18. ^ "The Feuerle Collection: International Ambassadors". The Feuerle Collection.
  19. ^ "AS Board of Directors". Americas Society Council of the Americas.
  20. ^ "Mecenas de la Nueva Sede: De Las Butacas". Escuela Superior de Música Reina Sofía.
  21. ^ "Fiesta! 2015". Casita Maria. 2015.
  22. ^ "Patricia Phelps de Cisneros". Fundació Art i Mecenatge: AiM.
  23. ^ Bolton, Michele Morgan (20 January 2008). "Alumna's cache of Latin-American art". The Boston Globe.
  24. ^ "Patricia Phelps De Cisneros, Carlos Fuentes, and Peter Munk Honored at Americas Society 28th Annual Spring Party". Americas Society. 6 June 2008.
  25. ^ "Iris Foundation Awards Luncheon for Outstanding Contributions to the Decorative Arts". Bard Graduate Center. 14 April 2010.
  26. ^ "The Distinguished Service to the Visual Arts Award". ArtTable.
  27. ^ "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.
  28. ^ Reviriego, Carmen (2 February 2017). "Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, la gran mecenas del arte iberoamericano". Expansión (in Spanish).
  29. ^ Durón, Maximilíano (28 April 2017). "Independent Curators International's 2017 Leo Award Will Go to Patricia Phelps de Cisneros | ARTnews". ARTnews.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]