Latino Artist Creates Own Business Model, Thrives

Sara Ines Calderon September 6, 2011 Comments Off
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To chat with Franco Mondini-Ruiz is to be sucked into his world— art museums, New York City, Mexican mothers, San Antonio art society, gay parties, baroque wedding cakes, 18th century aristocracy, Catholicism, pan dulce, his career as a lawyer — but somehow when he brings them all together, suddenly, it makes sense. A native of San Antonio, Monidini gradually found his way into the art world via art installations he would make at parties. Eventually he quit his day job as an attorney and threw himself into the world of art.

But, he told News Taco, 20 years ago the art world was a harder place for Latino artists. So, he did what any lawyer-turned-artist would do, and created a new business model for himself. Now he’s got upcoming shows in California, Oklahoma and Arizona.

“I used the model of the panadería. I want to make a lot of pan dulce, but I want it to be so beautiful that you say, ‘Thank God I’m Mexican!’ and I want everyone to buy all they want. I have a model where I am running a Mexican bakery and I am blessed because museums want a piece of it,” Mondini-Ruiz said.

Informal economies, he said, was his inspiration to lash out on his own as an entrepreneurial artist. You had to become your own business strategist in the early days, he said, because there were not very many ways to get into the art world when he started. Nowadays, it’s easier for Latino artists because you can find Latinos who are curators or museum directors or board members — “We have become part of the industry,” he said — although there is still the occasional condescension.

Nonetheless, he told us, “If anything there is an acknowledgement that there are lots of different types of Latino artists. Yet, as much as we try, contemporary art is a religion or a cult and it is pretty classist. Those of us that get in and can make the cut are usually middle-to-upper middle class kids who can speak the language. And even then, you’d better watch your aspirations because you can only go so far,”

If you’d like to see some of Mondini-Ruiz’s work and happen to be in Oklahoma in the next few months you can see his show, “Poodles & Pastries (and Other Important Matters): New Paintings by Franco Mondini-Ruiz” from September 8 through December 31.

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