Carmen Reviriego: “For a couple of years donations have been frozen, because the middle classes do not make ends meet”

If we were to define Carmen Reviriego, we could say that she is a great executive. In fact, one of the most relevant in our country, as recognized by the Instituto de Empresa, ESADE and the Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Spain. But her role as an influential woman goes much further, because art, understood as a social commitment and a transformative tool capable of changing the world runs through his veins. “It’s in my DNA,” she says. And she has made him the center of his life. “Breakfast, lunch and dinner art, I passionate“, he explains to us.

How do you go from being a top executive of a big ‘broker‘ [fue directora de Aon Private Risk Management (APRM), una compaa lder en servicios de gestin de riesgos para grandes patrimonios] to be a key figure in the world of patronage?, we asked him. “Although she was immersed in the business world, the philosophy and the art They were always my great passions, and I felt that something was missing. Writing the book ‘The Luck of Giving’ changed my life, it made me see the need I had to convey that feeling”.

Member of the Council of the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute in New York and also a member of its Cultural Committee, author of three reference books – ‘The luck of giving’, ‘The labyrinth of art’ and ‘A trip along the Art Route’- and columnist, Carmen is also the president and founder of the Callia Foundation, from which she promotes the Ibero-American Patronage Awardsan initiative that recognizes the work of those who dedicate their time, and their fortune, to the promotion of art, which brings together the main business leaders and “functions as an incubator for new patron“.

Carmen ReviriegoCaroline Rock

Since its foundation and through these awards, the museography of the Goya rooms of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando, the second most important collection of the Aragonese master in the world after the one exhibited by the Prado Museum. As he tells us, in three years his foundation will donate 500,000 euros to the Royal Academy, because despite its cultural weight “it is the institution that receives the least funds,” he says. The first result of this patronage has made it possible to reinstall the paintings of Francisco de Goya and recover an emblematic space for its exhibition. What is your favorite work from that show? “How difficult to choose… I’ll take ‘The tyrant’, We haven’t restored it yet, but we will next year.”

Goya rooms in the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts.

Goya rooms in the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts.Javier Martinez

“Donating pays off”

The work of patronage now centers the life of Carmen Reviriego, focused on transmitting why the great fortunes should remember art. “For a couple of years donations have been frozen, because the middle classes can’t make ends meet; that’s why we have to focus on those who have the most, on the big companies. But this should never be an imposition, we have to convince them why it is in their interest to become patron; they have to fell in love. Donating pays off and we have to be able to make them see it “, she assures. It is their way of bringing Spain” what works abroad, the approach liberal Anglo-Saxon, to inspire and learn through the example“.

Of what is done outside, well, she knows more than anyone. “I spend 140 days a year traveling, because the art circuit is in New York, Basel, Berlin…, and to be aware you need to be inside”. How do you manage to balance everything you do? “Getting up at five in the morning”, she confesses, “is the time when I am able to write and be calm. In any case, I do nothing alone, one of my great virtues is knowing how to surround myself with extraordinary people, with the same passion as me”.

Detail of 'Saint Jer

Detail of ‘Saint Jerome in his cell’, by Marinus Claeszoon van Reymerswaele, one of the works in the exhibition.Javier Martinez

‘lucky to give’

At this point in the conversation one of his books, ‘The luck of giving’, is also placed in the center of the question. “You don’t have to wait for everything to be solved with a patronage law; that would be very good, but it’s not enough. You have to make those with greater capacity fall in love, transmit the glad to give, because that will make them better people and then they will also be top their companies. Today society does not understand success if there is no balance between personal enrichment and the ability to generate social welfare. An entrepreneur patron is always better perceived; bring bill.”

'La tirana', by Francisco de Goya, Carmen Reviriego's favorite painting.

‘La tirana’, by Francisco de Goya, Carmen Reviriego’s favorite painting.Javier Martinez

In Spain, moreover, there is the paradox that many philanthropists they support very different causes, from health to the environment, but these never include art. “It happens because it looks like something elitist, and it is not true, quite the opposite. There is nothing that equals the human being more than art. And he does it from above, that is his great virtue and his feat. There is nothing more egalitarian”, he insists. Because art is” that pinch of tenderness that takes us out of living in a hurry, that emotion that we feel in front of a painting or when we meet ourselves. That emotion is art, and it equals us all in sensitivity, passion, joy…, in the feelingswhich are our main virtues“.

For this reason, he assures that museums “have become the new temples of God, the place where we reaffirm ourselves and feel all those emotions. And that’s why it’s important to support art.”

Javier Martinez

Spain needs patrons?
There are great patrons here, but many more are needed, because we need to ‘export’ them, who are present in the patronage of the great international museums. How are we going to promote Spanish art in the world if we don’t have a significant presence in the three museums that are setting trends at the moment, the Moma, the Metropolitan and the Tate Gallery?
Are patrons essential because at the public level things are not done well?
In the US, museums are 92% self-sustaining with private money; here the Prado has 25% of public funds. I like that mixed formula, because it is unrealistic to think that the State can fully assume the financing, but that percentage ensures that situations such as those caused by the pandemic are overcome, which have forced the workforce to be reduced in other parts of the world and not here. In Spain things are done well, but we have to do better, that’s why we need more patrons. It is not the only problem with art, but it is the one that can be palliated.
Who are the great patrons of our country?
There are many very good ones. To name a few, an impeccable couple, Carolina Compostizo and her husband, Fernando Masaveu, both head the Fundación María Cristina Masaveu Peterson. Also Hortensia Roig, who is transforming Valencia, and Alicia Koplowitz, a great patron; there would have to be many Alicias Koplowitz.
Spain is different? Why are those who donate part of their fortune sometimes reviled? Envy?
It is something that does not happen outside of our country. In the United States, philanthropists are heroes, here they are questioned and put under suspicion, as happened to Amancio Ortega. I don’t think it’s because of envy, but because of laziness, it’s the way to equalize from below, easier because it doesn’t force you to make an effort.
Can we talk about a patron profile?
It is essential to fall in love. In any case, today everyone can be a patron by becoming a friend of the museums. It is very easy to contribute.
In addition to being a patron, she is an advisor to collectors. How does someone start in the world of collecting?
I advise, but always looking for that collector to have a patronage profile. And everything always starts from the love of art and knowledge. You have to search, find out, go to museums and galleries… See and see; it is about training the eye.

Caroline Rock

The passion How Carmen feels about what she does is clear in every minute of the conversation. “You will not understand life without what I do; it is my way of contributing to a better world, my drop of water, the legacy what I want to leave,” he explains while assuring that far from thinking about retiring, his work horizon is full of Projects. In the short term, a television series on art and patronage for a digital platform, by the hand of Gaston Pavlovichone of the producers of the film Martin Scorsese ‘The Irish’. “I want it all”, he points out, but always, around art and Callia. “The foundation gives me life, it is my refuge, my calm. Giving visibility to young artists is the bomb, a satisfaction; I feel lucky to give, it is the most beautiful part of art”.