Following our Intuitions with
Businessman, philanthropist, art curator, advisor and collector, Lio Malca takes some time off his busy schedule to answer our questions and speak about passion, art, and destiny. The Creator of the Lio Malca gallery in NYC, La Nave in Ibiza, and Casa Malca in Tulum, Mexico, Malca doesn’t intend to approach the art topic in a conventional matter and that is something to be grateful for.
—By Cinthya Chalifoux
KAWS – PHOTO COURTESY OF CASA MALCA
Some moments change the course of a lifeline; can you recollect your first contact with art? It was in 1990 after I graduated from University in Boston. I had moved to NYC to explore career opportunities. At that time, I was unsure exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to stay in NYC. I ended up visiting a distant relative, Jose Mugrabi, who was involved in the art market and living in NYC.
Jose and my father were planning to open a healthy Italian fast food chain in the US. They hired me to help with this fast food project, which gave me the opportunity to work from Jose’s office at The Crown Building on 5th Avenue and 57th street.
It was at Jose’s office when I first came in contact with art. I would be at the office every day, exposed to artworks from his collection. He would ask me to help with random duties – unpack artworks, sometimes deliver artworks to important collectors. Jose and I would also visit auction houses and galleries.
This experience with Jose changed my life path completely, and I am forever grateful and thankful to him. And as they say back home: “Looking for Peter, I found Paul.”
Since the early ‘90s you have been showing the world extensive collections of modern masters Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Kenny Scharf, to name of few. When did you start collecting this incredible body of work? I started collecting this body of work in the early 1990s. It started from my experience at Jose Mugrabi’s office. I had the time to look at auction catalogs. I discovered I preferred the artists from my generation – the ones I related to; Basquiat, Haring and Scharf.
Photo courtesy of VITORINO
“Fortunately, the healthy Italian fast food company didn’t work out. I say fortunately because I knew exactly at that moment what I wanted to do for the rest of my life: art, art, art!”
You are now a key lender and advisor to Basquiat and Haring exhibitions happening worldwide. How do you see yourself within this role? I feel fortunate that I can be a key lender and advisor to museums worldwide – to help make these artworks accessible to the public. When I collect a specific artist, I like to learn about the artist’s life, to go deeper than most. I feel that when you get to understand and know each work – the different facets, periods, colors, techniques, influences – then I can really help the curators and scholars organize a museum show.
We have seen great changes in the way we value secondary marketplaces for art. Do you feel like you have been part of a democratization process? We all are. Dealers, galleries, auction houses, and more importantly collectors that, without them willing to pay those prices, there would be no secondary market. The machinery is too big, and we are all part of it.
LA NAVE – PHOTO COURTESY OF LA NAVE SALINAS
Talking about democratization, you have undertaken quite a ‘give back’ gesture to the Ibiza community by creating La Nave Foundation. Can you tell us more about this concept and how it came to life? I have been visiting Ibiza for several years. The island has a vibrant energy and I’ve had a special connection and experience with the island. I came across La Nave, which is an old warehouse along the water that was built to store the salt in Ibiza. It was abandoned for years. I had wanted to do something to give back to the island and the community. When I saw La Nave, I thought it was the perfect space to create an exhibition space for the community.
My goal at La Nave Foundation is to showcase a broad range of art and create dynamic installations. I felt the local community in Ibiza, as well as the visitors, were ready for this type of cultural experience.
As an art dealer and a collector, I feel it’s an obligation to share works and masterpieces from my collection with the public. At La Nave, my goal is to bring art to the island with the hopes that everyone can come and view.
MARK RYDEN – PHOTO COURTESY OF CASA MALCA
As a real passionate individual, you are the main curator for all your exhibitions and projects. Have you always envisioned yourself being invested in creating experiences? For me, it’s all about the story and the storyteller. I like to curate an exhibition by transforming a space to showcase amazing artworks in an extraordinary setting.
Speaking about unconventional choices, you have chosen to show art pieces in settings that aren’t typical. What type of challenges did you meet in the making of Casa Malca? I like to create experiences. To have artworks live outside of white walls. To have mediums like art, music, and film crossover in an environment. It creates an interesting dialogue for the visitor outside of their normal expectations. I’m attracted to projects that defy categorization. I have to be daring and take chances.
Art sure takes a center stage in your business endeavors; how do you approach concept and integration? Visualization.
On a personal level, what sparks your interest toward an artist or a specific piece of art? If the piece of art or artist sparks some type of deep emotion inside me. If the art piece is calling at me, either by whispering in my ear or screaming very loud, I know I can’t walk away from it.
If you were to give one advice to a future art collector, what would it be? For me collecting is based on intuition and emotions. Those are the tools I use when acquiring new pieces. As I mentioned before, these tools go hand-in-hand with having the knowledge of the artist’s historical career and insights into their life.