“I am interested in contemporary art because it speaks to us of our times and of ourselves, because it creates and develops languages that can explain, in a new way, the world in which we happen to live and of which we often only brush the surface”.
Helga de Alvear
In 1967, Helga de Alvear bought her first work of art. Without suspecting the dimensions that this act would come to acquire, she thereby initiated an activity that she has maintained until the present day, and which has gained in passion, professionalism and tenacity, three qualities which have enabled her to amass Spain’s most significant private collection of international contemporary art and one of the most important in Europe.
Without intending to remake the history of recent art or the movements that structure it, Helga de Alvear has been acquiring works which, regardless of the artist that created them, interest her because of the artistic advances that they represent, the extent to which they match her interests, or their ability to constitute a conceptual or metaphorical reflection on the world in which we live.
The Helga de Alvear collection currently consists of over two thousand works. However, the collection is not conceived as a closed and definitive whole. On the contrary, it is constantly growing in order to respond to the desire to keep up with current and future changes and developments in contemporary art.
Following the completion of the first stage of the Cáceres Centre of Visual Arts with the regeneration and museographical overhaul of the building known as La Casa Grande, the exhibition Margins of silence opened to the public, displaying a selection of 115 works, produced between 1963 and 2009, constitutes a further example of the potential of the Helga de Alvear collection.
Helga de Alvear was born in the city of Kirn/Nahe (Rheinland-Pfalz), Germany, in 1936. She studied at the Salem School near Lake Constance, and subsequently in Lausanne and Geneva, Switzerland. She furthered her studies afterwards in London for a year.
In 1957 she travelled to Spain to learn Spanish and met the architect Jaime de Alvear. They married in 1959 and she set up residence in Madrid. They have three children, Maria, Ana and Patricia.
In 1967 Helga de Alvear met Juana Mordó and began what would later turn into her art collection. She came into contact with artists from the Cuenca group and from the El Paso group and she became increasingly interested in the Spanish art scene.
In January 1980 she started to work at the Juana Mordó gallery: those were years of apprenticeship, both in relation to management and to honing her knowledge about international art scene, particularly thanks to attending art fairs such as Art Basel, the FIAC in Paris and the Cologne Fair. Furthermore, in 1982 art galleries took a step towards innovating the Spanish scene by establishing the ARCO art fair.
As time passed, Helga de Alvear’s involvement at the Juana Mordó gallery became essential until in 1984, when Juana died, she took the helm. Over the next 10 years she would follow in the artistic and professional footsteps of her mentor.
In 1995, however, she decided to take a turn in her career by opening a new gallery under her own name in a space measuring more than 900 square metres next to the Reina Sofía Museum. Her latest project championed international contemporary art with a special emphasis on photography, video and installation – at a time when these mediums were practically unknown in Spain.
Today, Helga de Alvear’s project is one of the best-established and longest-running art galleries on the Spanish scene and it has earned widespread international acclaim.
Helga de Alvear has been awarded the Medal of Extremadura in 2007 and the Gold Medal for Merit in the category of Fine Arts in 2008, which is bestowed by the Spanish Ministry of Culture, and the Medal of Cáceres in 2011 to mention just a few.
While carrying out her professional duties Helga de Alvear has been able to give free rein to her grand passion: art collecting. At the present time her Collection includes more than 2,500 pieces by Spanish and international artists.