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Dynasty: the Yunes family, three generations of stakhanovists of the art world

Author: Marc Pottier, Art Curator based in Rio de Janeiro
Article published on June 12th, 2021

This is the story of a cultural dynasty. After the death of Jorge Yunes, the family collection has now become the adventure of a ‘matriarchy’. The B & C Club brings you today to São Paulo to tell you the odyssey of three generations of remarkable women who are working with great intelligence around an encyclopaedic collection, transforming it into several generous and dynamic projects to better think about art, from the origins to the present day.




No rights, only a duty: to share and to pass on


The love of art is undoubtedly in the DNA of this family. The great passion for collecting, which is like a breath of fresh air for Ivani and Jorge Yunes, is embodied by the daughter of the house, Beatriz Yunes Guarita. While collecting contemporary art on a personal basis, she has been putting the treasures of the family collection in order since 2017, acting as an ambassador to national and international institutions. Beatriz’s daughter, Camila, has also naturally taken up the cause by adding a very personal touch with the ‘Caixa Pandora’ project, which invites contemporary artists to dialogue with this exceptional collection on site.


Setting the scene: ‘the castle’


With its architecture and size, the house that houses the Yunes collection, built in 1935 by the French-Brazilian architect Jacques Pilon (1905-1962), has the appearance of a castle. This large house has the merit of being in one of the cultural corridors of the Jardim Europa district of the city of São Paulo. It was known as the ‘Casa de Manchete’, after the title of one of the magazines of the publisher Adolpho Bloch who owned it before Ivani and Jorge Yunes bought it in the 1990s. They extended it to house part of the collection and added a chapel. The gardens are by the brilliant landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx (1909-1994).



 CIJY (Ivani and Jorge Yunes Collection) or the collection of collections 


Think Big! At the Yunes we think big! Fasten your seatbelts! With an inordinate appetite for culture and all forms of art, in 50 years Jorge and Ivani Yunes have collected, in the course of their many trips and visits to antique shops and auction houses, around 90,000 objects, paintings and sculptures from all periods and from all five continents. It is difficult in an article to give a faithful account of this ‘inventory à la Prévert’, of this collection which is like a mini-Louvre and Ali Baba’s cave, where one meets ivories and chryselephantines, a Neapolitan cot, numerous religious objects from all parts of the world (chalices, incense-burners, crucifixes, books of hours, altarpieces from the Renaissance. Asia, African art, colonial Spain are also represented in this dizzyingly Babelesque ensemble which goes from the 3rd century BC to the 1970s. During the many years of the collection’s growth, this house was the perfect setting for the art history classes that were held here for the family and 20 or so friends. The Yunes are all about curiosity and inclusion.



A well-oiled division of roles


After the death of Jorge Yunes, the collection entered the immense challenge of inventorying, cataloguing, documenting… The thousands of works, divided into 22 sectors, are today catalogued by an interdisciplinary team of curators, specialists and restorers. The roles of the Yunes family are divided up as follows: Ivani Yunes is Honorary President of the collection, Beatriz Yunes Guarita, CEO and Chief Curator, and Camila Yunes Guarita is in charge of the New Projects.


An inclusive collection


While the Yunes love to collect, they also love to share. They have always responded favourably to requests for loans from curators of national and international exhibitions. As the collection is in a private residence, the CIJY is not open to the public. However, the door is always wide open and the family strongly encourages the dialogue with museum institutions and universities both in Brazil and abroad. Researchers and students are always welcome. And one should never hesitate to propose a new idea, with the open-mindedness of this family, it can perfectly be retained!


A civic duty to participate, to exchange and to give.


The Yunes are full of ideas. With the Pinacoteca de São Paulo, the CIJY has launched an innovative collaboration model never used before in Brazil.  Starting this year and for two years, the collection has hired a curator at its own expense to work for the Pinacoteca. After receiving 261 applications from all over the world, the Brazilian Horrana de Kassia Santoz was chosen by a joint commission made up of representatives of the Pinacoteca and the CIJY. Generosity is also one of the characteristics of the family, which in 2020 made an important donation of its works of art from Africa to the MON in Curitiba. This first donation will be followed by others that are in the pipeline for future projects.


Beatriz, the conductor


It is Beatriz who is in charge of bringing the collection to life, ensuring that inventories, loans and donations run smoothly… with a team of specialists that has brought together almost 30 experts and is now ‘limited’ to 10. The CIJY stops in the middle of the 20th century and has no works of contemporary art. This is where she comes in, as does her daughter Camila. Caught by the family virus (obviously without a cure), Beatriz has turned to the art of her generation with the international vision characteristic of the family genes and the same kind of passion. In her house, next door to the CIJY, 80% of the works on the walls are by international artists and 20% by Brazilians. Tomas Saraceno, Gilbert & George, Daniel Buren, Yayoi kusama, François Morellet, Carlos Garaigoa… rub shoulders with Brazilians Alfredo Volpi, Lole de freitas, Tunga and Sergio Camargo.


A cultural ambassador


She was the first Latin American collector to be invited, and since 2004 she has been a member of the board of directors of the MNAM-Centre Pompidou. As a good ambassador for Brazil, together with Catherine Petitgas, a famous French collector based in London, they have developed and financed a project that allows Latin American artists to be included in the collections. This has been the case with Cicero Dias or with an installation by the famous designers, the Campana brothers. Of course she is also involved with the friends of the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. In Brazil, her beautiful, generous and enthusiastic smile is naturally to be found on the board of the Pinacoteca, in the groups of patrons of the MAM, MASP, the Tomie Ohtake Institute and the MON in Curitiba (her mother, of course, supports these same Brazilian museums).



Close to the creation


For the woman who has always accompanied her parents on their travels and purchases, art is a gateway to all possible dialogues. It brings people together and always poses new questions that can even be disturbing. This is what she likes, and even more so the interaction with the artists: « With them, I learned that the work is more than what you see, » she confides to the B & C Club, aware that buying is only one facet of the richness of the art world. This is why she supports artists in their creative process. As for the CIJY, she believes that « it is a civic duty to share the collection, thus giving the works of art the opportunity to be seen by the widest possible audience, thus generating research and new dialogues. »


Kura Arte


In the vast majority of cases, an art collection is the exclusive passion of a man, a woman or a couple. It is rare for the transmission to be acquired, as the descendants often feel excluded from what they consider to be the preserve of their parents. The opposite is true for the Yunes, where we are witnessing a particle accelerator! After having taken the baton of this cultural relay race in hand, Beatriz passed it on to her daughter Camila who entered the dance by founding in 2018, Kura Arte, an art consultancy company whose main objective is to widen access to culture. She promotes dialogue between the different players of the art world, collectors, artists, galleries and institutions, that other family she has always known at her fingertips.


The apple does not fall far from the tree


With an atavistic dynamism, Camila has become a juggler, a cultural magician whose actions seem omnipresent.  Driven by the mission of forming true art lovers, Kura Arte is a company of 12 art amazons specialised in artistic advice and personalised help for collectors. Its activities also include the digital cataloguing of collections, the accompaniment of artists (Monitoring of the creative process. Conceptual discussions about the work. Creation of portfolios. Elaboration of critical texts of works, projects and exhibitions. Registration in residencies. Assistance in the development of projects…). Not to mention a host of special projects: among others, Kura Arte is a partner of the Iguatemi Group (known for its large malls of luxury brands), for which it proposes works for public spaces but also courses, international trips and guided tours of fairs and exhibitions; it sets up exhibitions for BNPPARIBAS and others, facilitating a dialogue between art and fashion at the Pinga boutique…


Pandora’s Box


As you may have guessed, Camila could not fail to invent something for the CIJY. With her family’s blessing, the Pandora’s Box project was ‘naturally’ born, bringing in contemporary art, the only missing link in this incredible artistic genealogy. Each edition includes an exhibition by a contemporary artist (at the moment Brazilian), created after the artist has been immersed in the varied immensity of the CIJY. Since 2018, Kura has organised five editions of the project: after the proposals of BARRÃO, ANA DIAS BATISTA, VIK MUNIZ, PAULO NIMER PJOTA, today it is the proposal of REGINA SILVEIRA that we can see. This part would deserve an article, as the dialogue between these artists and the Yunes universe works perfectly well and has created new circuits of visit in a collection impossible to discover in one go. No doubt an additional invitation to the members of the B & C club to come and discover this project in São Paulo?


With a rare dynamism, generosity and passion, these three exceptional women have each in their own way, by complementing each other perfectly, been able to give life to a collection which is thus becoming the place for stories to be told, for the effective valorisation of works and for exchanges such as few public institutions have. They have certainly not said their last word and we look forward to being surprised and dazzled by their future finds.



To learn more, join us for the webinar scheduled for 17 June 2021


On the donation of the African collection to the MON in Curitiba :



About Camila Yunes’ project Guarita http://www.kuraarte.com.br/