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.”
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.”