Marie Elena Journal


Art collector, patron of the Bass Museum and Locust Projects in Miami, the Contemporary Art Society in London, a founding patron of The Drawing Room and Chairwoman of the Board of Oolite Arts, one of Miami’s largest visual artist support organizations. Marie Elena is also an attorney at law specializing in financial matters.

What made Swab 2023 different?

I really enjoyed the new location. It made the fair look more organized and spacious. It was great to see galleries from countries like Iran, Lebanon and Albania, alongside galleries from Latin America. The Emerging LATAM section enabled European collectors and visitors to discover galleries from different Latin American countries. Finally, there was a greater selection of sculptural works and ceramics, which was great to see.

Marie Elena, we’ve noticed you’re drawn to Caribbean art. What aspects of it speak to you?

Since I moved to Miami, I have become more familiar with Caribbean and Central American art, particularly from Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico, as well as El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, etc. I grew up in Puerto Rico but moved a long time ago, so I had lost track of the art scene in the Caribbean and Latin America in general. Being in Miami, thus closer to home, made me realize how much is happening, not only in Puerto Rico but also in Haiti, Jamaica, and other smaller islands like Guadeloupe and Martinique. The diversity of art practices throughout the region is immense, and many amazing artists are not well known outside their countries because, historically, the art world has focused more on art from Mexico and South America.

How are Caribbean artists playing out in the new contemporary art scene?

Unfortunately, most people outside the region equate Caribbean art with Cuban art; however, there is so much more to explore. At Oolite Arts, the organization where I chair the Board of Directors, we held a fascinating show during Art Basel Miami in 2022, entitled Miami is not the Caribbean: Yet it feels like it. The show was curated by Danny Baez, who has previously participated in Swab with his gallery. The exhibition showed me that we can’t think of Caribbean art as a monolith. Each country has its own colonial past and history, and lumping them together doesn’t do justice to the artists reflecting on their identities. I am happy to see that galleries from these countries are increasingly featured in international art fairs and that museums such as Tate Britain, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Whitney and Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth are putting up shows that address the Caribbean.

Could you share some insights into your recent acquisitions and how they reflect your current interests in art collection?

I recently acquired two pieces by Puerto Rican artist Yiyo Tirado, whom I first saw in June 2017 at the MECA Art Fair in Puerto Rico, right before Hurricane Maria struck the island. Due to Maria, COVID-19, and Yiyo’s participation in the Whitney Museum’s No existe un mundo sin huracán: Puerto Rican Art in the Wake of Hurricane Maria, we weren’t able to finalize the purchase until now. The pieces are made of rebar and are very geometric. We also acquired a recent painting by Jorge Cabieses, a Peruvian artist, which is also geometric. In the last four years, we have gradually moved towards geometric works, not intentionally—it just happened.

Who are some of the exciting artists on your radar at the moment? What about their work has captured your interest?

I have been following more artists from Puerto Rico, including Edra Soto, Karlo Ibarra, and Lulu Varona. I have been fortunate to acquire some of Karlo and Lulu’s work, but I’m also interested in what they’ll be doing next.

SWAB in 3 words:

1. Vibrant
2. Interesting
3. Inclusive