By: ERIN MICHELLE NEWBERG
From Burning Man to Marfa, Miami and Manhattan, Yvonne Force Villareal is an entrepreneur, a gleaming fashionista, philanthropist, and a powerhouse, who has become the go-to guru for all things art.
A force to be reckoned with among a tight-knit community of collectors, to call Yvonne Force Villareal impressive would be an outlandish understatement. This visionary woman boasts a decadent style that is unparalleled – as is her taste in art. Alongside her business partner and best friend, Doreen Remen, Yvonne co-founded Art Production Fund (APF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to commissioning and producing significant public art projects, reaching new audiences, and expanding awareness through contemporary art. Together, they grew APF into an ambitious national outdoor installation program that includes Ugo Rondinone’s “Seven Magic Mountains” in Las Vegas, and Elmgreen & Dragset’s world-renowned bucket-list destination, “Prada Marfa” in Marfa, Texas. With hundreds of projects under their belts, they also executed activations with contemporary masters like Sanford Biggers, gallerists like Marianne Bosky, and New York City’s Rockefeller Center.
In 2014, the duo expanded their operation, deciding to shift the operating model from the nonprofit to the for-profit space, while still sitting on the board of APF. The result is Culture Corps, a creative firm that offers art consultancy, artist brand collaborations, and cultural programming services within the hospitality, entertainment, and real estate industries. The clients include the Ritz NoMAD, a five-year bespoke project where “we developed a uniquely New York-centric collection that is refined yet modern and reflects the flower district – so we used a simple premise to work with local artists who incorporated flowers and nature in an urban city, and that was our overarching theme,” explains Force Villareal. “We sought artists like Pat Steir, who paints waterfalls, and Ross Bleckner, whose works include large-scale flower paintings, to Miya Ando, an American visual artist recognized for her paintings, sculptures, and installation artworks that address concepts of temporality, interdependence, and impermanence.”
APF and Culture Corps are two projects that are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Force Villareal’s success story. But one can easily trace her drive to her roots. Force Villareal grew up in the Florida Keys and considers herself a “Florida girl.” Raised with no television in the 1970s she recalls being “mostly barefoot, always drawing and among bohemians and intellectuals.” After moving to New York City, she received a Fine Arts degree from the prestigious RISD. “I learned how to incorporate critical thinking and constructive criticism into my practice,” she explains. The world travels that followed yielded a moniker of a muse of American artist Alex Katz. “When we met in Madrid, we became instant friends, and he has since painted me over twenty times,” she recalls. Adding to APF and Culture Corps, she also launched Brite Force Art Initiative, an artist-in-residency program based out of her home in Marfa, Texas. The estate, which was owned by her husband Leo Villareal’s late great-great-grandfather, was eventually acquired by the art doyenne and turned into an art haven for those artists looking to work on their craft.
A firm believer in life’s balance, when not working alongside private clients to curate their collections, Force Villareal and her husband (who she met at a gallery opening in the ’90s over a John Chamberlain couch. Shocker!) spend time with their nuclear family . However, they never miss out on their favorite annual outing, taking place in the Black Rock desert in Nevada. “Burning Man is as important as the art world I work in. It’s a different community that feeds, fuels and reboots me. That is a priority.”