Goodwill: Circa 1881

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John Barrett Salon installation, Bloomingdale’s

Bringing art to the general populace is not a new concept to Alvaro Leal. In fact, he is an advocate of this lofty cause in word and in deed.

Leal’s calling began at the age of 15, when he acquired his first work of art – Richard Avedon’s iconic photo of Nastassja Kinski, naked and intertwined with a spunky serpent. From there, a passion ignited and persisted within Leal. With every disposable dime, he bought art in all its mediums with the intent and commitment to share his collection in full view.

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Leal appreciates modern art, especially Joan Miro, Pablo Picasso and Willem de Kooning, and he is partial to the contemporary portraiture photography of Herb Ritts, Irving Penn and Richard Avedon.

Leal’s brainchild, Circa 1881, is the culmination of an avid, informed career collector. The services it offers are simple in theory, yet complex in execution. Primarily, Circa 1881 deals with the transportation, installation and insurance of private art collections within the public domain. Additionally, it proffers collection management services whereby its employees select “objects d’Art” that are appropriate for a particular installation. Scouting sites for exhibitions also falls within its purview.

Circa 1881’s target clients are the collectors themselves. Most of the collector-members employ “art advisors” whom make recommendations with regard to their clients’ acquisitions. The advisors are great sources of referrals, as many collectors support art and culture, and want to share their collections with a broader audience, namely the public. Collectors initiate the process and agree to submit a portion of their collection to exhibit in a particular site. Circa 1881 scouts the location for feasibility, as with The Peninsula New York (pictured above), and the process is underway. The typical rotation lasts for a year. The Peninsula, to date, has had five rotations.

Moreover, Circa 1881 has developed a Lending Library, whereby a pool of high-value artwork is available for loan. As a gesture of “pro bono publico,” non-profit organizations borrow for free. For-profits, including corporations, media outlets, developers and hospitality, borrow for a fee. As a share-economy company, Circa 1881 is looking to partner with the hospitality industry, corporations and local companies to bring art to schools; its goal is to create a curriculum around the cultural humanities and history, and to involve children in the curation of art in terms of refreshing a space and provoking thought. Cincinnati, Cleveland, St. Louis and Philadelphia are among several cities being considered for this concept.

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