Cheech Marin is one of the foremost collectors of Chicano art in the United States. The comedian, best known as one-half of Cheech & Chong, has a collection that’s so highly regarded that the city of Riverside, just outside Los Angeles, is set to open the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art, Culture & Industry of the Riverside Art Museum in the fall. Earlier this month the city council approved plans for the center, which will be located in a former library after a $13 million renovation.
“They came to me with the idea, but I didn’t understand it at first glance,” Marin tells Variety. “I was like, ‘They want me to buy a museum?’ They were like, ‘No, we want to give you the museum — the building — for your collection.’”
Number of pieces he owns: “Over 700. For the most part paintings, but there are graphic works and some sculptures and photography.”
When he began collecting: “In the mid ’80s, about 1985. I made other collections throughout the years, but when I got to Chicanos, I was kind of the only guy in it who collected on that scale. All the masterpieces of Chicano art for the most part were readily available to be purchased.”
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First piece bought: “I bought a bunch of them at the same time by Frank Romero, Carlos Almaraz and George Yepes.”
Last piece bought: “Maybe an Einar and Jamex De La Torre. They are two brothers, and they will be the opening show at the Cheech.”
Most paid for a piece: “$20. [Laughs] I truly can’t remember, but I do know that I have to be working in order to collect. I’m not a billionaire.”