When Mario Testino inaugurated his arts foundation MATE (pronounced mah-tay for his initials in Spanish) in Lima, the pisco sours—the irresistible and deadly potent national cocktail of Peru—flowed, and revelers from around the globe danced the night away in the gardens of a romantically ghostly nineteenth-century mansion that had been transformed by one of Mario’s childhood friends, Coco Moore, into a jungle paradise.
Mario never intended to create a museum in his beloved hometown, but as he was putting the finishing touches on a sixties modernist house that he had acquired on the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean, a friend told him about a splendid mid-nineteenth-century building in the nearby area of Barranco, where the grandees of Peru’s Republican era built their elaborate summer houses. The house, in the area’s florid gingerbread style, was something of a white elephant, but Mario acquired it—originally with the intention of storing his art there.
Then he decided to give back to his community and country and transform the place into a foundation to showcase his own significant collection of contemporary art—much of it acquired directly from the artists themselves—as well as emerging Peruvian creative talents, and the work and collections of friends. Sadie Coles, the visionary London-based gallerist whom Mario credits with sparking his interest in contemporary art fifteen or so years ago and guiding his choices so astutely, was on hand to celebrate with Mario’s friends who had traveled from far and wide (I came fresh from the magical Dolce & Gabbana haute couture launch and festivities in Taormina, Italy).
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