The Delfina Foundation has announced the death of its founder, Delfina Entrecanales CBE, at the age of 94.
Over the last four decades, through her two eponymous initiatives, The Delfina Studio Trust and its successor Delfina Foundation, Delfina Entrecanales has supported nearly 1,000 artists and art practitioners to experiment, research, develop, produce and present their art and ideas. Her support, primarily through the provision of residencies and free/heavily-subsidised studios, has had an immeasurable impact on the contemporary arts and those who produce them in London, the UK and internationally.
In 1988, at the age of 62, when most people are looking to retire, the Spanish-born patron founded The Delfina Studio Trust at a pivotal moment in developing the Young British Art movement. Initially based in Stratford with a dozen studio artists, ‘Delfina Studios’, as it was often called, moved to a former chocolate factory in Bermondsey Street in 1993. It boasted 34 studios, accommodation for ten international residents, a restaurant and a gallery space. Renowned for its creative energy, warmth and community, Delfina Studios supported over 400 artists who went on to great success. More than a dozen were nominated or won the Turner Prize and many others achieved high acclaim. Delfina Studios closed in 2006.
At the age of 80, and still just as passionate about supporting artists, Delfina established Delfina Foundation in 2007 to provide residencies in London for international artists. Based in Catherine Place, a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace, the foundation initially focused on the Middle East and North Africa, hosting and presenting the work of many now illustrious artists. Later, in 2014, Delfina Foundation widened its geographical scope and expanded its size to become London’s largest provider of international residencies, bringing together practitioners from the UK and around the world to explore common ideas and practices, often structured around themes, two of which, The Politics of Food and Collecting as Practice, were inspired by its founder’s strong beliefs in hospitality, friendliness and alternative conceptions of “collecting”.
Delfina Entrecanales was a trailblazer in arts patronage. She was always unafraid of eschewing conventions. She was known for her relentless energy, immense generosity, no-nonsense approach, and dry sense of humour. Guided by her principles and firm conviction of ‘no strings attached’ support, she sought solely to offer artists the time and space they required to explore new ideas and develop existing projects, for the most part having no expectations of specific or immediately tangible outcomes. She actively avoided the limelight and shunned any notion of conventional gain or rewards due to her patronage. When questioned on her motivations, Delfina’s go-to line was always, “I collect artists, not art”. What mattered to her was the personal connection she made with artists, and she will be remembered for the individual care, attention and occasional “tough love” that she offered them. Delfina Studios and Delfina Foundation was her attempt to create a haven for artists, a place of refuge to connect with like-minded practitioners.
Later in life, Delfina was acknowledged for her tireless work in the arts, receiving a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2012 and The Prince of Wales Medal for Philanthropy in the Arts in 2013.
In 2020 Delfina retired from Delfina Foundation’s Board of Trustees, and over the last few years, she carefully prepared the groundwork for the foundation to have a sustainable autonomous future. Her legacy will continue through the work of the foundation and the many artists she has supported and patrons that she has inspired. Illustrative perhaps of her impact is the forthcoming Venice Biennale, where artists and curators associated with Delfina Studios and the foundation will represent Britain, France, UAE, Lithuania, and Oman, and a further six artists have been selected to present works in the Central Exhibition.
Photo Courtesy Delfina Foundation