Patricia Martín: Where did your philanthropic vocation come from?
Eugenio López: It came slowly; mostly, I discovered it and learned it in the United States, while visiting art institutions and museums. When I saw the works of Van Gogh, Picasso and others, I asked myself: “Why doesn’t this exist in Mexico?” That is to say, in my country there were neither public institutions nor private foundations that acquired important works of art. That is how I started to understand what philanthropy is and how it helps a community by doing something significant. It doesn’t matter if your name is on the wall; what is important is that you can say: “I did something that helped people.”
PM: Why contemporary art? What exhibition left a mark on you?
EL: Meeting the artists in person, our generation, realizing that you grow up with them; that is what influenced me the most. The possibility of living it in real time, of feeling part of what is going on at the moment that a piece of art is being created, or to feel close to what happened only 50 years ago, when the term “contemporary art” was coined. “Cy Twombly” curated by Kirk Varnedoe at MoMA in 1994 was very important.
PM: Are you inspired by any collector? And how do you define your role as a collector?
EL: Ingvild Goetz and Patricia Phelps de Cisneros inspire me, among many. My life as a collector is a passion, a passion that allows me to be exposed to many worlds. At this moment, it expresses itself mostly in finishing the museum, which is turning out great. We are creating a first-class space.
PM: What does it mean to have a foundation?
EL: It is a great responsibility. Solid foundations are created with a vision and a purpose. It depends on what one wants for the future: What kind of institution? I think that with the Fundación/Colección Jumex we achieved this: we chose a different type of foundation that made sense and was unique. After ten years it makes us feel very proud, that we trusted and supported the work of young Mexican artists. We took that risk, and it turned out to be an incredibly wise decision — visionary.
PM: What excites you about the collection’s new phase with the opening of the space in Polanco?
EL: I hope that a larger Mexican public visits the museum. That is what excites me the most!
PM: At first, when we began working on what now is known as the Fundación/Colección Jumex, I remember there was a sense of urgency, turmoil and cultural activism. Do you still feel the same way after all these years?
EL: No, it is not the same. Ten years ago, when you and I started, there was a sense of great excitement, of turmoil. Today I feel more the responsibility this entails. Back then the excitement was so real that I would like to feel it again. We were building something new for Mexico. What motivated us was that young Mexicans artists were emerging. All those expectations — we wanted something for the country. We never imagined all the great things that would happen in the careers of these artists! Today everything is more corporate. I feel like I cannot make mistakes — I have to lead a team; but I still do so with great passion, even though the excitement at the beginning was incredible.
PM: What do you think is the main achievement of the collection from the beginning until now?
EL: Contributing to the awareness of the great artistic work that is made in Latin America: the collection programs, scholarships, sponsorships, the library and the department of education. And of course, the artworks. But most of all, the greatest success is having built something that did not exist — an important international collection of contemporary art for Mexico.
PM: The collection has suffered a certain institutionalization, which we resisted in the first years. How do you feel about this?
EL: Although it will have the responsibilities of a museum, I would like to preserve its original freshness. Before now, when they asked me: “You have a museum in Mexico?” I said, “No, it is just a space to show art.”
I was embarrassed to think of Ecatepec as a museum. And the name! They wanted me to call this new space the “Eugenio López Museum.” Can you imagine? I was very embarrassed by that! It seemed to suggest the kind of institution in which you hang a large picture of yourself in the entrance with a gold frame around it, right? No way!
PM: Do you think an art collection has to be renewed every now and then? Do you think Jumex needs to be renewed?
EL: I began accumulating a lot, and to be honest, it is hard for me to let go. But it’s true, I will have to do some renewing; some parts are somewhat obsolete, and it is necessary to refresh things. Some artworks can be donated to certain museums or institutions.
PM: What would you say is the heart of the collection? Which pieces or artists?
EL: I think the collection has various cores. On one hand, the pieces by artists working in Mexico, with which we began the collection: Francis Alÿs, Gabriel Kuri, Damián Ortega, Santiago Sierra, Mario García Torres, Pedro Reyes, Teresa Margolles, Abraham Cruzvillegas among many others; and also works by American artists like Mike Kelley, Paul McCarthy, and work by artists from the ’60s and ’70s such as Lucio Fontana, Robert Ryman, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, On Kawara and Robert Smithson. These are artists that give an axis and a heart to the whole collection.