Obituary: Delfina Entrecanales, 1927–2022
By HG Masters
An arts patron who supported nearly 1,000 contemporary artists from around the world through two key eponymous initiatives in London, the Delfina Studio Trust and its successor the Delfina Foundation, Delfina Entrecanales died at the age of 94. The Delfina Foundation made the announcement of her passing on April 1.
For more than three decades, Entrecanales provided free or heavily subsidized space for artists to make their work, and was known for not collecting artwork herself, and even refusing to accept artworks as gifts. Instead, she preferred a “no-strings-attached” approach to patronage, which she summarized with her tagline: “I collect artists, not art.”
When Entrecanales launched the Delfina Studio Trust, initially in Stratford, in 1988, she was 62 years old and had lived in the UK since just after World War II when she had left Spain to study in Oxford. Her initial philanthropic venture was a studio space for a dozen artists, which she expanded and relocated to a former chocolate factory on Bermondsey Street in London five years later. The Delfina Studios had 34 spaces for working artists, including 10 live-work spaces for visiting international artists, and an exhibition space. Among its residents were more than 400 artists, including many artists of the Young British Artist generation and more than a dozen future Turner Prize nominees and winners, and international artists ranging from London-based artists David Medalla and Tomoko Takahashi, to Iranian pop-painter Farhad Moshiri, Korean-American sculptor Michael Joo, and Chinese painter Liu Ye.
After closing the Delfina Studios in 2006, Entrecanales launched the Delfina Foundation the following year in a residential building near Buckingham Palace, initially with a focus on providing residencies for artists from West Asia and North Africa. By 2014, Delfina Foundation, after expanding its premises, also widened its geographical focus to become a destination from artists around the world and the UK’s largest provider of international residencies, with seasonal programs of research and artistic topics and programs.
Born in southern Spain in 1927 to a progressive family, Entrecanales explained in a rare interview with the Financial Times that her father, though a wealthy industrialist, funded left-wing exile groups in Paris and sent his daughter to the UK, but refused himself to leave. Entrecanales herself was motivated by a 2005 trip to Syria and the fraught cultural strains of the post-9/11 era to focus on the art scenes of West Asia and North Africa.
In recognition of her long devotion to the arts, Entrecanales was named Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2012, and awarded the Prince of Wales Medal for Arts Philanthropy in 2013. Before she retired from the board of trustees in 2020, Entrecanales ensured that the Delfina Foundation will autonomously sustain its activities into the future. The Foundation’s obituary for its founder noted that at the upcoming Venice Biennale, Britain, France, the United Arab Emirates, Lithuania, and Oman are featuring artists who are former Delfina residents, while six other Delfina alums have been selected to present works in the Central Exhibition.