Inside the cutting-edge collection of Rosa de la Cruz, who ‘saw into the future of what art could be’

Drawn to daring artists from Ana Mendieta to Hernan Bas long before they achieved worldwide acclaim, the Miami maven set global market trends

Clockwise from top left: Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1957-1996), "Untitled" (America #3), 1992. 42 light bulbs, porcelain light sockets and electrical cord. Length: 504 in (1,280 cm) with 240 in (609 cm) extra cord. Estimate: $8,000,000-12,000,000; Christina Quarles, (b. 1985) Don't They Know? It's The End of Tha World, 2020. Acrylic on canvas. 77 x 96 in. (195.6 x 243.8 cm.) Estimate: $500,000-700,000; Formidable collector Rosa de la Cruz. Photo courtesy of the consignor; Peter Doig (b. 1959), Rainbow Wheel, 1999. Oil on canvas. 78 x 73 in (198.1 x 185.4 cm). Estimate: $5,000,000-7,000,000; Mark Grotjahn (b. 1968), Untitled, 2006. Oil on canvas. 58 x 48 in (147.3 x 121.9 cm). Estimate: $2,000,000-3,000,000. Artworks offered in The Rosa de la Cruz Collection Evening Sale on 14 May 2024 at Christie’s in New York; De La Cruz Collection, Miami

Whether it was her Key Biscayne home or her 30,000-square-foot namesake exhibition space in Miami’s Design District, Rosa de la Cruz’s doors were always open. With a disposition as generous as her eye was radical, the late collector and philanthropist was at the core of Miami’s cultural scene for decades. Her numerous contributions, from opening free and public forums for contemporary art to funding scholarship programs for local arts students, helped shape the city into the thriving art capital it is today.

Around 200 works from her singular collection are coming to Christie’s, beginning with 20th and 21st Century Sale Week in New York this May. The collection is a testament to Mrs. de la Cruz’s astounding foresight and fearlessness. As Head of Rosa de la Cruz Collection Sale, Julian Ehrlich, notes, ‘Rosa may have lived in Miami, but this is far from a strictly Miami collection. She was a truly global collector.’

rosa de la cruz

Formidable collector Rosa de la Cruz. Photo courtesy of the consignor

‘Rosa was one of the very few collectors who looked to document the 21st century from all angles’, says Isabella Lauria, Head of the 21st Century Evening Sale at Christie’s. ‘She had a very driven and focused vision of what her collection could be. She fostered artists that were pushing the boundaries of contemporary art, collecting them in depth. By exhibiting and championing these artists, she helped to create some of the most established markets we know today.’

Of her as an arbiter of taste, advisor and VIP representative for Art Basel Miami Beach, Stefanie Block Reed, adds: ‘Students and the international art community loved seeing what Rosa wanted to display and the next wave of artists that she was looking at’, noting that the museum, as well as the collector’s packed house parties, were highly anticipated fair fixtures in Miami each year.

Left: Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991), Buscador de estrellas (Star Gazer), 1956. Oil on canvas. 39¾ x 31¾ in (101 x 80.6 cm). Estimate: $350,000-550,000. Offered in The Rosa de la Cruz Collection Evening Sale on 14 May 2024 at Christie’s in New York. Right: Inside the de la Cruz Collection, Miami, 2024

Mrs. de la Cruz’s collecting journey began at Christie’s, where she bought her very first painting, Rufino Tamayo’s Buscador de estrellas (Star Gazer, 1956), in 1988. De la Cruz and her husband, Carlos, were both born in Cuba, and Latin American art remained a passion throughout her nearly 40 years collecting. Over time she developed a keen interest in avant-garde abstraction and conceptual art, working with artists on site-specific installations that expanded their practices.

De la Cruz Collection director, Melissa Wallen, recalls Rosa’s ‘radical spirit’: ‘She wasn’t afraid of taking chances. Likewise, she encouraged artists to not be so afraid of making mistakes. She understood that it was in those moments that artists would oftentimes have breakthroughs.’ Wallen adds that ‘much of the work in the collection is important because it represents a pivotal moment within the artist’s career where they found their voice or took a risk.’

Open link https://www.christies.com/en/lot/lot-6482254?ldp_breadcrumb=back

Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1957-1996), "Untitled" (America #3), 1992. 42 light bulbs, porcelain light sockets and electrical cord. Length: 504 in (1,280 cm) with 240 in (609 cm) extra cord. Estimate: $8,000,000-12,000,000. Offered in The Rosa de la Cruz Collection Evening Sale on 14 May 2024 at Christie’s in New York

Open link https://www.christies.com/en/lot/lot-6482253?ldp_breadcrumb=back

Ana Mendieta (1948-1985), Untitled (Sandwoman Series/ Serie Mujer de Arena), 1983. Sand and binder on wood. 55 x 26 x 4 in. (139.7 x 66 x 10.2 cm.) Estimate: $300,000-500,000 Offered in The Rosa de la Cruz Collection Evening Sale on 14 May 2024 at Christie’s in New York

The first contemporary work Mrs. de la Cruz acquired was by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, a fellow Cuban-American who fled Fidel Castro’s regime. During the final years of the artist’s life in the early 1990s, Gonzalez-Torres and Mrs. de la Cruz formed a close friendship in Miami. De la Cruz went on to assemble the most comprehensive collection of Gonzalez-Torres’s work in private hands, with notable pieces from each of his key series, including an impressive Light String that will be offered this May.

Left: Ana Mendieta (1948-1985), Guanaroca (Esculturas Rupestres) [First Woman (Rupestrian Sculptures)], 1981. Lifetime black-and-white photograph on Masonite. 53¼ x 40¾ in (135.3 x 103.5 cm). Estimate: $100,000-150,000. Offered in The Rosa de la Cruz Collection Evening Sale on 14 May 2024 at Christie’s in New York. Right: Inside the de la Cruz Collection, Miami, 2024

Also integral to the de la Cruz collection is the Cuban-American sculptor, performance artist and conceptualist, Ana Mendieta, best known for her awe-inspiring Silueta earth works, in which she variously recorded the silhouette of her body amidst the natural landscape.

Though she died tragically in 1985 at just 36 years old, the impact of her groundbreaking art and advocacy for women and immigrants continues making waves and revealing itself today. For example, Mendieta is currently featured in exhibitions at major museums from León, Spain to New York City.

‘Rosa had a vision to collect works by artists who were doing really original and unconventional things’, says Ehrlich, noting how both Gonzalez-Torres and Mendieta addressed topics that are ‘incredibly relevant in our current cultural moment.’ He continues, ‘I think only now, looking back, can we fully appreciate how she saw into the future of what art could be.’

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Peter Doig (b. 1959), Rainbow Wheel, 1999. Oil on canvas. 78 x 73 in (198.1 x 185.4 cm). Estimate: $5,000,000-7,000,000. Offered in The Rosa de la Cruz Collection Evening Sale on 14 May 2024 at Christie’s in New York

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Mark Grotjahn (b. 1968), Untitled, 2006. Oil on canvas. 58 x 48 in (147.3 x 121.9 cm). Estimate: $2,000,000-3,000,000. Offered in The Rosa de la Cruz Collection Evening Sale on 14 May 2024 at Christie’s in New York

Indeed, de la Cruz was a magnet for artists who broke the mould of their respective media, such as Wade Guyton, Mark Grotjahn, Glenn Ligon and Tauba Auerbach. These artists ‘pushed the medium of painting forward,’ says Ehrlich, by incorporating stencils, screens and other tools in their process. Guyton, for example, puts canvases through printing machines whose spontaneous technological glitches produced unique compositions, nearly erasing evidence of the artist’s hand. Mrs. de la Cruz was early to collect these artists in depth, says Lauria: ‘She bought the very best of these artists’ different series, forming a survey of each one’s work.’

De la Cruz’s patronage of German abstraction was also ahead of the curve. ‘She collected some of the best canvases by Albert Oehlen, Martin Kippenberger and Sigmar Polke, and she lent several paintings to Oehlen’s first major US exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami in 2005,’ says Ehrlich. ‘This inspired many American collectors to take an interest in German contemporary artists.’ Today, they remain some of the most in-demand names in contemporary art.

Hernan Bas (b. 1978), trying to fit in, 2004. Oil, acrylic and gouache on panel. 31 x 24 in (78.7 x 61 cm). Estimate: $70,000-100,000. Offered in The Rosa de la Cruz Collection Evening Sale on 14 May 2024 at Christie’s in New York

Further reflecting her market foresight, Mrs. de la Cruz collected many works by the Miami-based figurative artist Hernan Bas. This past December, the painter’s landmark solo show at the Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach was the talk of the town. At Miami Art Week that month, Mrs. de la Cruz acquired the final work in her collection, landscape No Way Out (2023), a radiant landscape by the Brooklyn-based painter Shara Hughes.

Speaking to the diversity of the de la Cruz collection, Lauria says, ‘Rosa had incredible masterpieces by blue-chip names, but she also ventured out to support artists that were up and coming or just spoke to her.’ The offered works span price points from $5,000 to $8 million. The wide range is ‘reflective of Rosa’s story’ says Lauria: ‘She invited everyone to share in her collection, and now that it’s coming to market, there is space for anyone anywhere in their collecting journey to participate and continue her legacy of championing revolutionary artists.’

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