AMM Spotlight Chicano Art: Cheech Marin

Primarily known as an actor, director, and performer, Cheech Marin has developed the finest private collection of Chicano art in the United States. Much of it formed the core of his blockbuster exhibition “Chicano Visions: American Painters on the Verge,” which broke attendance records during its groundbreaking 12-city tour during 2001-2007 to major art museums across the United States. Some of these paintings were also shown in Los Angelenos/Chicano Painters of L.A.: Selections from the Cheech Marin Collection, which was on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). 

As Art museums across the United States may not have always seen the value in Chicano art, Cheech Marin has. The actor, comedian, and famous stoner has amassed a collection of 700 works in his lifetime.

Marin started collecting Chicano art shortly after he rose to fame with his frequent collaborator Tommy Chong in the ’70s and ’80s. Over the course of more than 30 years, Marin amassed a significant collection of paintings, drawings, and other works. His collection includes highlights by artists such as Gilbert “Magú” Lujan, Frank Romero, and Carlos Almaraz.

After spending decades advocating for Chicano artists, Marin teamed up with the Riverside Art Museum to push for a dedicated exhibition space to showcase the under-appreciated genre.

“I have dreamed for many years of finding a home for the hundreds of pieces of art that I have spent much of my life collecting, protecting and showing, when possible, at major museums around the world,” Marin said in a statement. “The Riverside community has made this dream a reality.”

The Cheech – as Marin jokingly calls it – is a partnership between the city of Riverside, the museum, and Marin.  This project means that the large Latino community who lives in Riverside and surrounding areas will have a museum that reflects who they are.

“It was this idea that the museums and the cultural institutions hadn’t been effectively serving a vast majority of our community,” said Riverside Art Museum Executive Director Drew Oberjuerge. “Like most museums, our board and our staff don’t reflect the diversity of the region. This was a realistic look at [our] own sustainability.”

The museum is scheduled to open doors in 2020.

“It’ll be the one place worldwide that everybody can go to for all things Chicano art.” Cheech Marin