HERIBERTO NIEVES AVILÉS was born February 11, 1957 in Vega Alta, a city in the north of Puerto Rico, where he grew up and began his academic development in the public school system. During those years, a member of the Puerto Rican chapter of the Boy Scouts Troop 143, he is accepted to the Order of the Arrow lodge at a very early age. This event marks his life forever, providing him with leadership, independence, critical thinking, and strategy skills.
Heriberto excels in the plastic arts workshops at Apolo San Antonio School. He completes his undergraduate studies at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico, where he receives a Bachelor's Degree in Biology. He then continues his search and completes a concentration in Painting and Plastic Arts at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus.
Following his fate, in 1993, he receives a scholarship from the Office of Foreign Affairs to continue his graduate studies in our sister country of Mexico. He finishes his Master's Degree in Painting at San Carlos Academy of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, where he graduates with honors. In 1996, Heriberto Nieves built the first bridge of his career between Mexico and Puerto Rico, orchestrating an exhibition of Mexican artists titled “La presencia de San Carlos en Puerto Rico / The presence of San Carlos in Puerto Rico” in the National Gallery of the Puerto Rican Institute of Culture. For his academic excellence, solid artistic proposal, and cultural manager initiative, he is awarded the Alfonso Caso Silver Medal in 1997, becoming the first Puerto Rican to receive this award from the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
His efforts and good work lead him to present his artwork in many exhibitions, captivating the Mexican press's attention and renowned art critics. As he continues to develop his work, new opportunities open up.
Dr. Eduardo Planchart —Curator of the Sofía Imber Museum of Contemporary Art of Caracas, Venezuela — invites him to exhibit his works in this Latin American capital. Later on, Dr. Planchart travels to Puerto Rico as curator and museographer of Nieves' art exhibition at the Arsenal de la Puntilla, in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Meanwhile, Nieves receives an invitation to work at the ateliers of two great Venezuelan masters in Paris, France: Carlos Cruz-Díez and Asdrúbal Colmenares. For five years, he works hand in hand with them, and once more, he is able to participate in various exhibitions, among which it is worth mentioning the 1998 Paris Biennale of Latin American Contemporary Art, where he represents Puerto Rico.
In 1997, supported by the Embassy of Venezuela and the Honorable Nelson Castellano, art critic and General Consul of Venezuela in Paris, as well as by Sir Jean Claude de Salinas, Executive Secretary of the Association Internationale des Arts Plastiques (AIAP), Heriberto Nieves creates Puerto Rico’s first international platform of fine arts as co-founder of the Puerto Rican Association of Plastic Arts (APAP), affiliated to the Association Internationale des Arts Plastiques (AIAP) – UNESCO, Paris, becoming the international relations honorary member of AIAP- UNESCO, Paris.
Due to his accomplishments and successful artistic progress, he is admitted as a permanent resident to the CITÉ INTERNATIONALE DES ARTS IN PARIS by a committed led by President Madame Simone Brunau. Thus, Nieves becomes the first and only Puerto Rican to achieve this prestigious acknowledgement. There, he meets designer Pierre Cardin, who invites him to exhibit his works at the Espace Pierre Cardin in Paris and Brussels.
In 1998, Dr. Fernando Gallardo, Head of the Regional Colleges Administration of the University of Puerto Rico, names Heriberto Nieves Resident Artist at the University of Puerto Rico, Utuado Campus.
UNESCO grants him an “Honor Diploma” for his role as promoter and main exponent of Puerto Rican plastic arts. This award is the result of his efforts to organize the exhibition “Puerto Rico in Paris,” which entailed inviting eighty Puerto Rican artists to this world-renowned Parisian institution. This event, created in collaboration with the Ferré Rangel Foundation, American Airlines and Puerto Rican government institutions, became a milestone in the history of Puerto Rican plastic arts.
For three years Nieves lives in the Finnish capital of Helsinki, where he works and participates in numerous exhibitions. Among other significant events, he represents Puerto Rico at the St. Petersburg's Biennale of Contemporary Art in Russia.
In 2000 he was invited to Ponce Art Museum, where his work Péndulo de Luna Blanca / White Moon Pendulum left a deep impression for its plastic proposal and visual quality. As a result, the Ponce Museum and Heriberto Nieves received the First Prize: Sculpture Exposition from the Association of Art Critics of Puerto Rico (AICA).
In 2001, in Helsinki, Finland, where he lived for three years, Nieves presented his work at EU-Man Art Gallery and participated in several exhibitions. In addition, he represents Puerto Rico at the St. Petersburg Art Biennale in Russia.
In 2003, he was invited to a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art of the Dominican Republic, titled “Círculos de Difracción.”
In 2004, Heriberto donated his sculpture Péndulo de Luna Blanca / White Moon Pendulum to the Miami Children’s Museum. According to Executive Director Deborah Spiegelman, This contribution is truly generous and a wonderful addition to the museum’s exterior space. Nieves acts as a juror for the Fifth Young Artists Living in Paris Hall at the Venezuelan Embassy in Paris. He is awarded a scholarship by the Arana Foundation in Paris to continue studying arts.
In 2005, he represented Puerto Rico at the Biennale of Contemporary Art in the Italian city of Florence, where he wins the Leonardo de Medici Silver Medal in the Sculpture category —his sculpture becomes part of the permanent collection at the University of Puerto Rico, Utuado Campus.
Nieves is one of the most seen urban sculptors in our island’s public spaces. Since 1998 he has promoted the integration of art in locations outside of museums and galleries to make it more accessible for all society. Heriberto Nieves has proven that once a large-format sculpture is integrated in a balanced way to the surroundings and existing architecture, it creates in the area an effect of beautification that promotes sensibility and a sense of pride and ownership to all beholders that contemplate it. His sculptures can be found in the cities of Ponce, Guaynabo, Vega Baja, Vega Alta, Bayamón, Caguas, Carolina, and Utuado. Internationally, his works can be admired in Caracas and Trujillo, Venezuela, as well as in Paris, Miami, Mexico, Korea, and China.
Having accomplished the successful construction and installation of multiple urban sculptures in 2006, the Association of Sales and Marketing Executives of Puerto Rico awards him with the Golden Guanín. This prize is presented annually for promoting the image of Puerto Rico both locally and abroad. The Senate of Puerto Rico recognized Mr. Nieves for his great contribution to Puerto Rico’s cultural life with a resolution that, according to Senator Norma Burgos, “is for a friend, an excellent artist and an extraordinary human being who loves his country and its people. As welder of his own sculptures, he needs lots of space and a battery of helping hands that make him an employer for over 70 persons during the creative processes.”
In 2007, Heriberto was invited by the International Museum of Contemporary Art to participate in the 4th Youngwol International Contemporary Sculpture Symposium- 2007 Korea in Kang Won-do province, Korea. There, he sculpts Lunas de Oriente / Eastern Moons, a piece of art that will remain in the city permanently.
In 2008, the International Olympic Committee invited him to present his works at the Summer Olympic Games of Beijing, in China, where he sculpts Mapa Cósmico / Cosmic Map, award winner of the world's Gold Medal in the Sculpture category. This achievement promotes Puerto Rican art as part of the world’s culture and as a complement of the Olympic Games spirit.
During an interview for “Casa de América” —one of the most popular television shows in Spain transmitted internationally—, he is recognized as one of the greatest plastic artists in the world.
Worried about the future of art, Nieves ventures to work with college students of the public system in 2007, when he is named Artist in Residence at the University of Puerto Rico, Carolina Campus. Nieves develops the course ARTE 3157, in which he starts developing the observation process with attention to detail. The course covers drawing, painting, and sculpture. At the end of the course, students exhibit their best works in an open public art exhibition. Through this course, some students discover the need to keep creating and developing their newly identified skills. Heriberto Nieves guides all who have the need to create and become artists by teaching them to believe in themselves and how to promote and sell their artwork in a competitive market. In Puerto Rico, the Artist in Residence position is an extremely coveted title that has been held by only three national artists: Francisco Rodón, Antonio Martorell and Heriberto Nieves.
In 2010 Nieves presents a solo show, titled “Concurrencia y Colinealidad…una Visión de Mundo”, at the Museum of the Americas in Old San Juan. The exhibition revolves around the artist's research on the plastic interpretation of mathematical theorems and the origin of the circle —the main symbol of Nieves' artwork—, conducted in collaboration with Dr. Luis Cáceres from the Department of Mathematics of the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus.
That same year, Nieves is nominated as a candidate for the 2010 Kyoto Prize by the Inamori Foundation in Japan, where he is chosen as a finalist of this honorable international award. Candidates for this award are nominated on the basis of their international artistic career and their social service at national level.
Diversifying his artwork, Nieves adapts his sculpture designs and launches his line Functional Art. Nieves sells a private project to furnish the main lobby of a new biotechnological research building in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
In 2015, Heriberto Nieves received his Ph.D. in Visual Arts from San Carlos Academy at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. His thesis, “The artist as an entrepreneur: a research on artistic production and cultural management”.
The thesis, proposes that the artist can, and should conquer his place in the art market, in addition to providing work with excellent quality like any other luxury goods. The document provides theoretical and conceptual tools aimed at the younger generation of artists so they can learn to insert their work in the art world and other fields as well. It addresses concepts that are essential to understanding contemporary art production, the complex phenomenon of art, art institutions, and the art market, such as marketing, cultural management, curatorship, business, and money, based on an analysis of the art world as a personal and professional experience.
Nieves is the first person in Puerto Rico to obtain a Ph.D. in Visual Arts. He becomes the first academic with a doctoral degree in Art and Design within the University of Puerto Rico System. For this achievement, he is promoted from Artist in Residence to Assistant Professor at the University of Puerto Rico in Carolina, acting as Director of Humanities Department in 2017.
One of his recent contributions is the construction and establishment of a fine art gallery in the state’s university. This art center aims to be a base for emergent talented artists with serious art investigation proposals. It will serve as a cultural center for international exchange, building bridges and connections between artists, museums, and other art galleries from around the world, with Puerto Rico and its students.
For more details on Heriberto Nieves's projects, refer to his CV & Events.
“When I am no longer present, may my efforts and my work be a cry standing the test of time, heard by others, instilling in them a sense of creation and liberty: that will be my legacy!”
-Heriberto Nieves, Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris, France, 1998.
ON A PERSONAL LEVEL
The effort, motivation, passion, and spirit of Heriberto Nieves define the best qualities of humanity. He stands out for his artistic acts and his charitable contributions towards the growth and success of all those who surround him. Through demonstrating his actions and consistently successful career, we can see how he follows his beliefs in maintaining a balanced life between work and spirituality, giving and sharing all the experience and knowledge he has with all those who seek it.
Heriberto Nieves’ awards have always been for Puerto Rico. Due to its political status, the island does not have international representation, which makes everything more challenging when establishing contacts and obtaining support at a global level. This only makes Nieves more admirable in his successful efforts to present Puerto Rico to the world with its many talented and gifted individuals. Heriberto Nieves is truly Puerto Rico’s fine arts ambassador. He single-handedly created a beacon, emitting determination, and dedication with his work. He bridges Puerto Rico to the world with its artistic community. Heriberto’s achievements have opened new roads. At the Biennale International of Contemporary Art in Florence, Italy, he guided participating artists. Last year, he sponsored and supported three Puerto Rican artists in the “Sculpture and Mix Media'' category. Other achievements include cultural exchanges with Mexico through the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the University of Puerto Rico. He has orchestrated art exhibition exchanges and academic symposiums between both Mexican and Puerto Rican artists. In addition, the CITÉ DES ARTS foundation in Paris opened its doors to Puerto Rico in a collective exhibition titled “Puerto Rico in Paris.” These few examples demonstrate that Heriberto Nieves has dedicated himself to earn all those awards and contacts for the benefit of Puerto Rico and the artistic generations in the foreseeable future.
Our artist has always used Puerto Rico as his home base, even though he could have established himself anywhere around the world where success followed like Mexico, Paris, Finland, Florence, South Korea, China, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Panama, Colombia, and the United States. It is obvious that this Puerto Rican artist has reached each and every continent on the planet, always returning to his people to make a difference in his beloved island. Even with the current struggles Puerto Rico is going through; Nieves always hopes to bring a bright future that will demonstrate the powerful talent that can come from such a small island. Nieves carries the torch for his island without any diplomatic aid. He will continue to voice the talents of great Puerto Rican artists to improve their chances of exhibiting their work and the quality of their opportunities and entrepreneurship. He wants Puerto Rican art to be seen with pride and respect.
Heriberto Nieves is a living example that he is on this planet for a specific mission: He works endlessly to spread the word that his country is building strong exchange relationships with other artistic platforms worldwide. He lives to motivate, inspire and share his experience with all artists to benefit from entrepreneurship and all sorts of artistic endeavors. Regardless of the past or present, his career is an example of new beginnings and accomplishments, of how dedication and unstoppable determination can lead us to achieve our dreams and goals.
Ely C. Reyes