Cheech Marin Brings His Chicano Art Collection and Tequila to Basel Week

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Cheech Marin, famously one-half of the iconic duo Cheech & Chong, is coming to town with his stash — of art and tequila, that is. That might not be the stash you were expecting, but it's definitely an interesting reason to get out and meet a comedy legend.

Marin is set to host Art & Cocktails at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino this Saturday, December 3, when he will showcase his one-of-a-kind Chicano art collection and let the public sample his new tequila, Tres Papalote.

The free event invites guests to peruse the artwork as they taste Cheech’s Tres Papalote Artisanal Mezcal, a handcrafted tequila made with a generations-old family recipe.

Now, you might be saying to yourself: OK, the tequila makes sense, but Cheech loves art? Love might be an understatement. Over the years, Cheech has developed the finest private collection of Chicano art in the United States. His love for this particular style of Mexican-American art clearly leaped from a hobby to an all-out passion years ago.

"I believe that Chicanos are the best painters out there today. I love Chicano art because this school of painting offers the widest variety of styles and techniques. I'm passionate about it because Chicano art is American art," Marin tells New Times.

Besides his love of the art itself, Marin has other motives in mind as he tours cities with his collection: increased exposure to the craft. His goal is to get the art in front of people who might not have known the style existed.

"Chicano art has been largely kept out of American museums until recently. Chicano artists haven't been given the shelf space in museums allotted to other American artists. That's why I've worked so hard over the years to get Chicano art on view to the mainstream," Marin says.

"My mantra has always been that you can’t love or hate Chicano art unless you see it. Once people see it, often they say something like, 'I didn't think it would look like this' and 'I like this.'”

Now onto the stuff you've definitely heard of: tequila. If Cheech's master plan is to lure people in with booze so they see the beautiful Chicano art, then dammit if he isn't a genius. His cocktail of choice being tequila with tonic and a lemon twist, Marin says mezcal is a spirit that is on the rise, so he felt it was a good time to make it a household name.

"Mezcal is clearly an emerging category, so when I decided to collaborate on a spirit brand with Riviera Imports, mezcal seemed to be the perfect classification, and it was connected to my Mexican heritage," Marin says.

To get the agave just perfect, Cheech and his people relied on good old trial and error to master the process and produce a taste that is unique.

"We searched Mexico to find a wonderful-tasting mezcal and discovered the wild cupreata agave plant in the mountains of Guerrero," Marin explains. "We were drawn to its slightly sweeter taste and found we could cook the agave piña (the heart of the plant) a specific length of time so as not to have too strong of a smoky flavor, creating a very approachable taste. I invite people everywhere to join me in the mezcal movement."

Prior to the Hard Rock event, Cheech will host the party Latin Night this Thursday, December 1, at the #TFAPOPUP Artist Exhibition, located at 55 NW 23rd St., Miami. Join Cheech and enjoy a selection of Tres Papalote signature cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, and an art performance by Michelle Lopez.

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