Interview with Miguel Leal Rios
Fundação Leal Rios – Lisbon, Portugal
What was the first piece of artwork you purchased, and when was this?
It was a rare drawing of the Portuguese painter Álvaro Lapa, from 1958. I purchased it in 2002. He is a very respectable and important painter in Portugal but totally unknown in the international community of art.
Why do you collect?
Maybe Freud explains it better than me, but in my opinion collecting is a kind of obsession that becomes a responsibility. I think artists can be visionaries and collecting maybe is another way to show the contemporary world in a more systematic order through others visions, senses and reflections – the artist perception I mean.
Does your collection follow a concept or a specific theme?
At the beginning of purchasing art, my brother Manuel and I often used to buy with a certain spontaneity and intuitively guided by personal references. But after a certain time there was this need to focus, and I focused on my interests. My interests were on architecture, or space, on the relation between body and object, consciousness and matter. So today, I can say the criteria base for the construction of our collection is to try to identify and understand the artistic practice of "installation". I seek, therefore, to emphasize the contributions of this artistic production segment for a contemporary debate on "spatiality" of the artwork and its relationship with the processes of organization and occupation in the exhibition space. Artworks under the notion of "installation", "in situ" or "intervention" may have similarities in the way they operate with the exhibition space. The viewer is confronted with an "installation" or a "specific site" can interpret it accordingly to the recognition that he/she makes of the artistic practice and feel through a pluralistic approach that points to architectural aspects. This can be done through the space where an artwork can be shown, the relation of the artistic practice with the space, "site specific" and spatiality, installation vs. architecture. Thinking that an installation may consist of a set of different media in order to transcend itself, there is the need and the particular interest to add to the collection other media, such as video. Moving image, sound pieces and documentary video are now some of my main points of interest. As a strategy, we don’t collect only one artwork of an artist, but rather acquire the nuclei of key pieces in order to follow the artist’s work.
Who are the artists you are currently following?
I am following several artists like Dénes Farkas, Reinhard Mucha, André Romão, Bernardo Ortiz, Tristan Perish, Sven Johne, Sarah Pichlkostner, Ignasi Aballí, Prem Sahib, Nidhal Chamekh, and a range of video artists.
Do you have a personal relationship with the artist you collect?
For me it is very important to personally know the artists. I like to speak with them about their motivations, about their past and their future. Most of the works in our collection are by artists that I know personally and with whom I maintain a good relationship and some are good friends.
Why did you decide to make your collection publicly accessible?
I think it is unfair with any artist to keep his or her work closed in a warehouse. In my opinion we collectors have a responsibility with the artists from the day we start to purchase their work. At the end we have a certain power on defining what to do with a work of art and establish the end of it. But art is also made to communicate, and thus to be enjoyed.
After years of collecting my brother and I decided to institutionalize our art collection with the goal to share it with the public. That’s why we open the Leal Rios Foundation – an exhibition space that also includes a video room, with a week schedule to allow anyone interested to come and see the work of the artists we collect and the work we are doing as collectors. As a strategy I want to internationalize our collection, and so we are developing international protocols with other private institutions in order to show our collection abroad. The first step was made in 2015 with our presence at the LOOP Festival in Barcelona, with the “Writing Diffraction” exhibition. “Writing Diffraction” comprised works from the Leal Rios Foundation collection that focused on the poetics of perception, utilizing near-scientific methodologies to ascribe form to inherently immaterial phenomena. On the other hand we lend works to other institutions and exhibitions. It is another way of showing our artworks and our collection. Since we founded the Leal Rios Foundation four years ago we have lent 56 artworks to 28 different exhibitions worldwide.
Which publicly accessible private collection would you recommend visiting?
I love the collection and program of the Dia Art Foundation and I also recommend a visit to Berardo Collection, in Lisbon.
More information on Leal Rios Foundation