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Pedro Vallenilla Echeverría

Puerto Cabello, 1894–Caracas, 1988

Pedro Vallenilla Echeverría was an entrepreneur, banker, industrialist, and art collector based in Caracas, Venezuela. He assembled a collection of over forty Cubist paintings, drawings, collages, and sculptures—remarkable as one of the few collections of its kind in Latin America—including works by María Blanchard, Marcel Duchamp, Albert Gleizes, Auguste Herbin, Marie Laurencin, Fernand Léger, André Lhote, Jean Metzinger, Diego Rivera, Alejandro Otero, Pablo Picasso, Georges Valmier, and Jacques Villon, among others.

Born in a small city on the north coast of Venezuela, Escheverría trained as a violinist and moved to Caracas as a young man to pursue a music career, performing as a soloist at the Municipal Theater. Escheverría was offered a government fellowship to continue his musical training in Spain in 1914 but, due to the outbreak of the First World War, remained in Caracas. Facing financial troubles, he eventually gave up his career as a violinist to pursue more profitable business ventures. While he achieved success in his pursuits as a banker and industrialist, Echeverría began exploring his interest in the arts through his collecting practices.

In 1927, Echeverría married María Celeste Meneses de Vallenilla. Together, the couple often traveled between Europe, the United States, and Venezuela. It was during this period that Echeverría began assembling his collection. Initially, he was not exclusively interested in Cubism, but acquired works of European modernism more broadly. Some of his first acquisitions were by artists working in late-nineteenth century France, including Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Auguste Renoir, and Alfred Sisley. In 1959 Echeverría’s collection was featured for the first time in an exhibition at the Museo de Bellas Artes. The presentation documented works by the aforementioned artists, as well as by Venezuelan artists including Manuel Cabré, Rafael Monasterios, Alejandro Otero, and Armando Reverón. Later that year, the museum organized a second installation of Echeverría’s collection, which included early works by André Derain, Herbin, Laurencin, Léger, and Picasso; new acquisitions that foretold the change in his collection focus.

Starting in 1961, Echeverría definitively shifted his focus towards Cubism, slowly replacing his late-nineteenth century holdings. Over the next decade, he worked with a variety of galleries and dealers based in Caracas, Mexico City, Paris, and New York to build his new collection. Sources included the Estudio Actual in Mexico City; Galerie Fricker, Galerie Marcel Bernheim, and Galerie Urban in Paris; and Hammer Galleries, Heymann Gallery, Irving Brenner Galleries, M. Knoedler & Co, and Eugene V. Thaw in New York, among others. Exhibition catalogues from the Museo de Bellas Artes dated from 1966, 1968, and 1970 document the collection’s transitional phase in which works by Georges Braque, Gleizes, Juan Gris, Metzinger, and Rivera entered and left the collection regularly.

In 1973 a selection from the Echeverría collection was shown in France as part of the exhibition Les cubistes, organized by the Galerie des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux and the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. The collection was presented in its final form later that year, as part of the inaugural exhibition of the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo in Caracas. Three years later, the collection travelled to the United States, where it was exhibited at the Archer M. Huntington Gallery of the University of Texas, Austin. Echeverría donated a large part of the collection to the Museo de Bellas Artes in 1978; the donation included Blanchard’s Still Life in Relief (1916); Duchamp’s Standing Nude (1910); Gleizes’s Composition (1922); Herbin’s Seated Woman (1913); Laurencin’s Head of a Woman (ca. 1910) and Woman with Hat (1912); Léger’s Portrait of André Mare (1915); Lhote’s Egyptian Nude (1955); Metzinger’s The Café (1915); Amédée Ozenfant’s Gray Pearl (1930); Picasso’s The Bottle (1909); Valmier’s Composition (1922); and Villon’s The Public Garden (1913). Echeverría’s collection now forms the nucleus of the Cubist collection of the Museo de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts), Caracas.

For more information, see:

Obras cubistas y “collage”" II: coleccion Pedro Vallenilla Echeverría, Caracas. Exh. cat. Caracas: El Museo de Bellas Artes, 1970.

Peruga, Iris. Cubismo y tendencias afines en la colección del Museo de Bellas Artes: donación Pedro Vallenilla Echeverría y otras adquisiciones. Caracas: El Museo de Bellas Artes, 1986.

How to cite this entry:
Castro, Maria, "Pedro Vallenilla Echeverría," The Modern Art Index Project (August 2018), Leonard A. Lauder Research Center for Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.