Born in La Habana, Cuba and educated at Colegio de Belen, (Bachiller de Letras), (1940-1953), Universidad Catolica de Santo Tomas de Villanueva and graduated from law school, (1953- 1958). He worked with his family in the cattle and sugar business. His family properties were confiscated by the Castro government under the guise of an Agrarian Reform starting in June of 1959. To avoid arrest, he had to seek political asylum in the Embassy of Chile from April of 1961 to June of 1961 when he left Cuba as a political asylee and arrived in Texas in June of that year. His first job was as a landman with Coastal States Gas Producing Company in Corpus Christi, Texas (1961-1966), and worked for Cattle Land Oil Company as Vice-President from 1966 to 1968. He is a member of the Texas Bar and was licensed to practice law in Texas on September,18, 1967. In 1968 he was a founder of the law firm of Porter, Taylor, and Gonzalez and was involved in the oil and gas business as Vice President of Integral Petroleum Company and after its sale to Matagorda Oil and Exploration Company, he was its short-term president. He was in the banking business in Corpus Christi, first as Vice President of the Bank of Commerce, which merged with the Guaranty Bank and Trust Company, and became its Vice Chairman of the Board, until it was sold to the Texas Bank of Commerce. He was also involved in several smaller oil exploration projects. He is presently President of Soncel Financial Inc. who is a privately held company founded with his deceased spouse Sondra M. Gilman and in 1968 thru is affiliated companies own The Lakes, a 1,400 acre a real estate planned unit development in Kingsland, Ga.
He is President of the Sondra and Charles Gilman Jr. Foundation, Inc, Gilman and Gonzalez Falla Arts Foundation, private Foundations, Cintas Foundation, based in New York and Miami, that was created to encourage artists, writers, musicians, and architects born in Cuba or of Cuban descent, who annual awards of twenty-five thousand dollars for each category to selected fellows. He was President and Trustee of Aperture Foundation, (2005-2014). Texas Governor George Bush appointed him as Texas Art Commissioner served from 1997 to 2003. He is a member of the Whitney Museum photography committee.
His wife and him created the Gilman and Gonzalez Arts Foundation in 1989 to support lyricists and playwrights working in the American Musical Theatre. Were honored with Theatreworks USA’s Lee Salk “Good Works” Award for distinguished contributions to Musical Theatre, and Urban Stages for work in promoting and supporting musical theatre.
His deceased wife, Sondra M. Gilman, before they married, was an avid collector of art, including photos. She was instrumental for the Whitney Museum to start collecting photography, and the curator of photography is named after her. Their collection has more that 1200 photos and their collection has had three shows. The first one “From the Heart” curated by Adam Weinberg opened at the Art Museum of South Texas. Corpus Christi on March 6, 1998, traveled to Jacksonville Museum of Contemporary Art, the Patrick and Beatrice Haggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University, Hood Museum, Dartmouth College, and the Mobile Museum of Art, Mobile Alabama. A book on the show was published by the Aperture Foundation: “From the Heart. The Power of Photography, A collector’s choice. The second show was “Shared Vision: The Sondra and Celso Gonzalez-Falla Collection of Photography”, was curated by Ben Thompson, and Paul Karabinis, and opened in September of 2011 it went to Aperture Foundation in New York, 2012, Princeton University Museum, 2013, Brooks Museum in Memphis, TN and the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn University, Alabama, 1999. A book for the exhibit was published by Aperture Foundation. The first show in Europe was at the Musee l’Elysee in Lausanne, curated by Tatyana Franck and Pauline Martin called “The Beauty of Lines” and traveled to the Caillebotte Museum, Yerres, France and Fundación Foto Colectania in Barcelona. The book was published by The Musee de l’Elysee. ART NEWS listed Sondra and Celso in 2004 as one of the top 25 collectors, and in 2011 as one of the top 10 photo collectors. An interview in 2015 published by the Spanish magazine “Tendencies del Mercado del Arte” featured the Gonzalez-Falla’s as owners of an “admirable collection”.
Celso’s main passions are Cuba, photography, and writing. His first novel “My Lost Cuba” was published in October of 2013, and a translation “La Cuba que Perdímos” was published in September of 2016. He also has privately published two books of poems. Pa’Ella, Paris November 2011, and “Cuántas Veces” a book of poems and photographs, November 2017. He is presently working on a book on short stories.