Inside the Home of Jorge Pérez, the Miami Collector Championing Latin American Art

  • Portrait of Jorge M. Pérez in his Miami home by Gesi Schilling for Artsy.

Jorge M. Pérez loves art with the kind of fervor usually reserved for obsessives. When he speaks about it, his movements are exaggerated, his voice louder. Historical information about each work gives way to onomatopoeia and gesture, sometimes proving fuller descriptors than words. His eyes twinkle. For all his brilliance in both the artistic and economic realms, there is little academic quality to Pérez’s experience of art itself—it’s all feeling.

  • Jorge M. Pérez’s Miami home. Photo by Gesi Schilling for Artsy.

Pérez—Miami’s best-known real estate developer—is best known in art-world circles for having donated a $20 million portion of his renowned Latin American art collection, plus $20 million in cash, to what was then called the Miami Art Museum. “Miami, which is sort of the capital of the Americas, should have a great Latin American art collection,” said Pérez of his donation as we toured his home the week before Art Basel in Miami Beach. “And it was important to me for a Hispanic person to assume a lead role in philanthropy and have their name associated with a great museum like the Tate or the Guggenheim.” The Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), as the institution is now called, has quickly pushed towards a dominant place in the city’s institutional landscape.

  • Jorge M. Pérez’s Miami home. Photos by Gesi Schilling for Artsy.

Pérez’s Venetian-style home serves as an equally vibrant, frequently rotating gallery for his  extensive private collection. “It’s always changing,” he says. “I don’t want to keep the work in storage. I want to look at it.” And he and his family do, constantly. There is art by the exercise machines, above the toilets, in the wardrobe. “Although I study art, I’m not an intellectual collector. I’m a passionate collector,” says Pérez. “It’s about the experience and beauty of it.” Here, he shares the history behind a selection of his favorite pieces. His most loved: every single one. We narrowed it down to a few.

Kiki Smith, Antony and the nurse log, 2007

  • Kiki Smith, Antony and the nurse log, 2007, installed at Jorge M. Perez’s Miami home. Photo by Gesi Schilling for Artsy.

Kiki Smith is a painter who I’ve loved and admired for a long time. I actually saw this piece in San Gimignano, Italy. Continua, one of my favorite galleries, was having a one-person show for her. I particularly loved the beauty of this painting, which talks about her memories and childhood. That’s her portrait with nature—the trees, the birds, the butterflies. I love the touches, such as the gold nails. It’s just a beautiful piece. That’s why it dominates the bedroom. I see it every day when I wake up.”

Pablo Atchugarry, Untitled, 2013 

  • Pablo Atchugarry, Untitled, 2013 (left) and Free Spirit, 2011 (right), installed at Jorge M. Perez’s Miami home. Photos by Gesi Schilling for Artsy. 

“Another one of my favorites is Pablo Atchugarry. He just had a major retrospective at the Forum in Rome. He mostly works in marble, but I think his wood sculptures are absolutely magnificent. He spends half the time in Italy and, for this sculpture, got huge olive trees, about 300 years old. That’s the root—he carved the root. This is a very different medium for him. We’ve just given a 30-foot sculpture of his to the museum, so he’ll be in the PAMM. I bought this piece at a museum in São Paulo—this was the first time I’d seen the wood sculptures and I loved it. I have probably one of his most important pieces, a marble sculpture [Free Spirit, 2011] at the entry of my house.”

Ruben Torres Llorca, Protección, 1996

  • Rubén Torres Llorca, Protección, 1996, installed at Jorge M. Perez’s Miami home. Photos by Gesi Schilling for Artsy.

“This one was made for me, for this house, by a great Cuban artist, Torres Llorca. He and [José] Bedia, a very important artist, left Cuba and went to Mexico, then came here. Amongst the group of artists from that generation, they’re probably considered the best. Both artists mix the Christian religion with Afro-Cuban religions. This is a symbol, a good luck piece, for the opening of my home. All of these are scenes from my life. It’s in English and in Spanish, because my life is in English and Spanish. There are parts that relate to my family, the airplane that I fly, the houses that I build, the stairs I climb. There are my Cuban roots, shown with a coffee-maker. Everything here is his interpretation of my life and, at the same time, a good luck charm. I’ve kept it ever since. Not only do I love it, but I think if I take it out, it’ll be bad luck.”

Michael Loew, Untitled #97, 1955

  • Michael Loew, Untitled #97, 1955, installed at Jorge M. Perez’s Miami home. Photo by Gesi Schilling for Artsy.

“When I built this house, I had Italian artisans help. My mother had a great library in Cuba. I remember leather-bound books and first editions. I always wanted to have my own library that reminded me of those days in Argentina and then in Cuba. This is sort of a tribute to that. I’d probably never build this now; my tastes are a little different. I want much more airy and modern and open spaces. But still, I love this feeling.”

José Bedia, ¡Ay Tatá! ¿Hasta cuando?, 1995

  • José Bedia, ¡Ay Tatá! ¿Hasta cuando?, 1995, installed at Jorge M. Perez’s Miami home. Photo by Gesi Schilling for Artsy.

“This is José Bedia. Again, there is the symbolism of African and Catholic religions. This is a church where people go in Cuba—a place for pilgrimages. People come sick and they are supposed to become cured. They will crawl on their knees. But he mixes it with African symbolism and language, prayers to African gods. I thought it was a beautiful piece celebrating the Christian and African cultures of Cuba and the Caribbean.”

Secundino Hernández, Sin Título (SH 12.11), 2012

  • Secundino Hernández, Sin Título (SH 12.11), 2012, installed at Jorge M. Perez’s Miami home. Photo by Gesi Schilling for Artsy.

“Since we discovered Secundino Hernández, he’s just exploded. He’s a wonderful young man from Spain, but now he works in Berlin. This is an earlier work, which is very [Cy] Twombly, but with his own language. He later experimented with color.”

Julio Le Parc, Volumen Vertical, 1960-72

  • Julio Le Parc, Volumen Vertical, 1960-72, installed at Jorge M. Perez’s Miami home. Photo by Gesi Schilling for Artsy.

“This is one of the great Latin American kinetic artists. He recently had a huge showing of his work in Paris at the Palais de Tokyo. We’re having one at the PAMM, too, and this piece will go there. He is known for his use of color, light, and kinetic movement. He doesn’t make that many sculptures, but this is one of them. You can see the colors vibrating—it’s a beautiful use of color.”

Alex Katz, Alba, 1990 

  • Alex Katz, Alba, 1990, installed at Jorge M. Perez’s Miami home. Photo by Gesi Schilling for Artsy.

“When I gave away my Latin American collection, one person I followed and thought was a genius was Alex Katz—particularly the portraits of his wife. He does both landscape, in a sort of Post-Impressionistic way, and these elongated, streamlined figures. You can look at this the way you’d look at a Monet. To me it’s just so peaceful and so beautiful.”

Pablo Atchugarry, Sin título, 1994 

  • Pablo Atchugarry, Sin título, 1994, installed at Jorge M. Perez’s Miami home. Photo by Gesi Schilling for Artsy.

“These are little masterpieces. It’s Portuguese marble. I love his small sculptures. He makes so much movement—in fact, more movement than in the larger pieces. These were presents to us.”

Damian Ortega, Ioni, 2012, and Giorgio de Chirico, Gli Archeologi, 1968 

  • Damián Ortega, Ioni, 2012 (left), and Giorgio de Chirico, Gli Archeologi, 1968 (right), installed at Jorge M. Perez’s Miami home. Photo by Gesi Schilling for Artsy.

Left: “This one relates to Mexican culture—the Aztecs had everything made in stone. This is a perfect square made out of 18 different pieces, which you can deconstruct. It’s hard. The museum showed it taken apart, which is really cool. I said, “Damn it, Tobias [Ostrander, PAMM’s chief curator]! Are you going to be able to put this back together?” He said, “Yes, this is the way it’s supposed to be.” Some people like it as a square, some people like it shown as ruins. I like it deconstructed—when we move this to another place in the house, we’ll show it that way.”

Right: “This is a masterpiece of the 20th century. This is pure, classical, Italian deconstruction. He was like Picasso: the greatest of the greatest.”

Edouard Duval-Carrié, The True Story of the Water Spirits, 2004

  • Edouard Duval-Carrié, The True Story of the Water Spirits, 2004, installed at Jorge M. Perez’s Miami home. Photo by Gesi Schilling for Artsy.

Duval-Carrié, who is Haitian-American, did this piece for the house. It talks about African slavery. When the slaves were brought to Haiti, they were thrown out if they were very sick. He draws—look at the beauty—all these slavery scenes. Then you see the buds, the flowers, the vegetation. I love him. He’s a good friend. The PAMM also had a big show of his work, ‘Imagined Landscapes’.”

Monica Uszerowicz

Share article