What I Buy and Why: Juan Yarur Torres on Spotlighting Chilean Artists, and Running Out of Space to Display His Collection

We caught up with the collector from his apartment in Santiago.

By Naomi Rea, Artnet.com

As the son of a textile magnate, Juan Yarur Torres’s appreciation for beautiful things led to his art-collecting addiction.

The 36-year-old’s collection includes works by Tracey Emin and Andy Warhol, but also leading Chileans such as Cecilia Vicuña and Claudio Bravo. He is the head of a nonprofit art foundation, Fundación AMA, which aims to raise the profile of Chilean artists internationally, and he is on the Latin American and Caribbean Fund Committee at MoMA.

We caught up with him about his mission to educate the world about Chilean art, and the Mannerist painting he dreams of adding to his collection.

What was your first purchase and how much did you pay for it?

A Claudio Bravo lithograph that my father bought for me at an auction when I was 12. I think he paid around $2,000.

What was your most recent purchase?

I recently bought a painting by the Chilean artist Juan Downey from his widow, Marilys Downey.

Which works or artists are you hoping to add to your collection this year?

Right now I’m obsessed with having an Anish Kapoor. I was also talking with a gallery last year about Tino Sehgal, but I never closed the deal for some stupid reason. Kara Walker is also someone who I have thought about a lot.

What is the most expensive work of art that you own?

I bought a work by Otto Muehl for around $120,000 a week before he passed away in 2013. It’s not actually the most expensive work I ever bought, but it is the most valuable work I own. We recently had to change the prices on the insurance after I realized how valuable it is right now. 

Investing in art is not my model because I never sell anything, and my collection is super personal to my taste, so when we are doing the insurance thing, we sometimes figure out that something is now crazily more expensive than when I bought it, but I had no idea.

Where do you buy art most frequently?

Everywhere from artists to galleries to auctions, and we commission a lot.

Is there a work you regret purchasing?

No regrets, but if you’re talking about problematic to own, that is pretty much half of my collection. I am always thinking about doing international exhibitions and showing Chilean art outside of our country, so I was never afraid to buy these humongous things, but there is no space to put them at home.

What work do you have hanging above your sofa? 

Above my sofa is a Marc Quinn commission titled Easter Island, because he knew that it was coming to Chile. We’re going to change it now because my daughter will be starting to walk soon and the painting is floor to ceiling, and it isn’t protected by glass.


What is the most impractical work of art you own?

A 12-meter-long and 7-meter-high wall composed of hundreds of little plastic bags filled with water in the form of a world map, by Chilean artist Catalina Bauer. I can only see it when I show it in museums.

What work do you wish you had bought when you had the chance?

The silly answer is an apartment in New York, because my father offered once, and I said “no, I’m fine,” and then I could never afford it again.

If you could steal one work of art without getting caught, what would it be?

The Massacre of the Innocents by Cornelis van Haarlem, which is in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. My favorite period is Mannerism, and I have never ended up with any [Mannerist works].