El Museo del Barrio’s Permanent Collection of Modern and Contemporary art includes paintings, sculpture and installation, photography, and mixed-media works. These holdings are, primarily, postwar expressions by Puerto Rican artists based both on the Island and in New York. The collection also includes selected Mexican, Central, and South American artists active in the contemporary New York art scene.
El Museo’s holdings of modern and contemporary art is particularly strong in Post War works (1950–the present), including paintings (over 400), photography (over 700), and other contemporary, mixed-media and three-dimensional and time-based forms, such as video, primarily created by New York-based Latino artists (in total, over 1,500 works). Presently, El Museo is seeking to actively build its Permanent Collection by developing the holdings of Post-War art, with a sustained focus on artists/groups/schools who emerged in, produced in, or interacted within, New York. El Museo’s Bienal, The (S) Files, and the artists featured within, continue to be extremely supportive of the Museum and allow us to represent the pulse of contemporary Latino expression.

In particular, the museum seeks to create focused areas of works overlooked or under represented in museums of Latin American art, or encyclopedic institutions that have Latin American collections. We strategically plan to develop holdings in these neglected areas through the scholarly research, outreach, and presentation of exhibitions and related publications and programming which bring us into active contact with stakeholder in these areas. Successful examples of this strategy include our focused holdings of contemporary
work by Dominican artists, as well as photography, video, and other materials that document actions by artists of the Americas. Working towards these goals, El Museo has received many wonderful donations, and has made selective acquisitions, that add to the strengths of our Permanent Collection holdings.
Within the collections of paintings, photographs, and small-scale sculpture are reflected many modes of expression–including works that explore social and political themes–that serve to amplify El Museo’s important holdings in graphics. In these, the artists generally employ realistic, impressionistic,or expressionistic styles. Many of the photographs, in particular, document everyday conditions in El Barrio (East Harlem) or Puerto Rico. Included as well are paintings that incorporate realistic (or nostalgic) depictions of landscapes or cityscapes, particular regions or historically-important places, significant objects, and/or architectural elements.

El Museo’s Modern and Contemporary Collection also includes objects in which abstraction is an important, if not the prevalent, form of language. These pieces have been created by artists trained in the global artistic languages that emerged in urban industrial centers of the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America in the late 1950s. These include geometric and

perceptual explorations of color and shape, process oriented works, and expressionistic modes of abstract language that allow for intensely personal and psychological responses.

By mid-century, artists around the world challenged the representational quality of art itself. At the core of their concerns were the very processes of “abstraction” and “representation.” A selection of conceptual paintings, photographic, and mixed-media works in the Permanent Collection, incorporating various metaphors – as well as political, social, and economic commentary, and, frequently, the use of language – attest to this important trend.

A growing selection of paintings, sculpture, mixed media forms, and installation pieces reflect a hybridization of styles that exemplify global postmodern trends in which Puerto Rican artists working in New York, in particular, played a leading role in developing. These include incorporation’s of everyday objects and printed matter that lead to a collage of styles, serving to reference prior cultural production. Often gently humorous, these works are usually, at heart, critical challenges to stereotype sand cultural assumptions.