Cheech Marin Plans Riverside Museum

Comedian and actor Cheech Marin has announced plans to establish a museum to display his 700-piece collection of Chicano art. The proposed Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art, Culture, and Industry would occupy the current Riverside (Calif.) Public Library and would be affiliated with the nearby Riverside Art Museum, though details have yet to be worked out. Above is Eloy Torrez's 2006 portrait of Marin, It's a Brown World After All. Below is a very conceptual rendering of the future museum, from the RAM site.
The Marin Center becomes the third major eponymous museum simultaneously in the planning for greater Los Angeles. There's also the Marciano Art Foundation (opening May 25), and the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art (c. 2021, they say). Stoners, stone-washed jeans, and Star Wars.

There are many collectors of contemporary art, of the mostly white and art-school kind. Marin has been unique as a patron and booster of Chicano artists. His collecting has spanned political graphics as well as paintings; populist as well as museum-validated art. Below is Sunset Crash (1982) by Carlos Almaraz, subject of a Getty-promoted PST retrospective coming to LACMA this August.
It's not easy for an art-collector comedian to be taken seriously. Witness Steve Martin or, um, Bill Cosby. A 2008 LACMA show of Marin's collection drew harsh reviews. Christopher Knight's was titled "Why this actor's art shouldn't be at LACMA." Knight faulted the unseemliness of a museum ceding its curatorial role to a celebrity private collector. He found the Marin collection uneven, with "several terrific works," many lesser ones, and some historical gaps.

The Riverside plans raise the question of whether Marin might have done more for Chicano art by placing his collection, or part of it, in a major museum where Almaraz could have been shown next to Thiebaud or Diebenkorn or Lundeberg, say. Marin has opted for an institution that will focus on Chicano culture, not just art. The Marin Center will be near several universities with Chicano studies programs.

On view at the Riverside Art Museum through May 7 is "Papel Chicano Dos: Works on Paper From the Collection of Cheech Marin." Among the works is a watercolor by Wenceslao Quiroz of a truck loaded with pallets, headed for a bridge too low to accommodate it. The study for a Boyle Heights mural is an allegory of the immigrant experience and also a subtle synthesis of watercolors East, West, and South.


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