THE PERMANENT COLLECTION
El Museo’s permanent collection offers an in-depth perspective on Latino art and visual culture in the U.S., Latin America, and the Caribbean. Ranging from pre-Columbian to modern and contemporary art, the collection, totaling more than 8,000 objects, is a unique cultural resource that reflects the institution’s decolonized and diasporic history and ethos, which since its founding in 1969, has envisioned three main cultures—Amerindian, African, and European—as the basis of visual cultures in the Americas.
In an effort to create dialogues across histories, media, traditions, and other categorizations, the permanent collection has been re-envisioned into six evolving thematic sections, which include: Urban Experiences, Expanded Graphics, African and Indigenous Heritages, Craft Intersection, Women Artists, and Representing Latinx. With many of the artworks echoing across sections, such groupings represent a new approach to the range of typologies that constitute El Museo’s collection, which reflects the full diversity of Latino art.
Methodologically innovative, these groupings juxtapose categories of artistic media, gender, cultural heritage, and ethnicity to offer an art historical perspective based on diverse viewpoints that allow for a more open, expanded, and diversified approach to American cultural identity.
Explore nearly 100 works from the Permanent Collection and hear exclusive audio from artists on El Museo’s fully bilingual guide on the Bloomberg Connects App!
Héctor Méndez-Caratini, Plena callejera, 1979 and 1981 (original) / 2010 (print). Collection of El Museo del Barrio, New York. Gift of the artist and Nannette G. Méndez López. 2012.19.5.
The urban experience is crucial to El Museo, whose history is rooted in the neighborhood of East Harlem. This theme builds around histories of community self-determination and cultural expression, exploring the work of photographers such as the En Foco collective, who documented Latino life in New York since the 1970s. This section also considers city fragments and objects found in the streets, and used as material by artists like East Harlem resident Gregorio Márzan or as inspiration for Lucia Hierro’s vernacular Rack: Platanitos sculpture. Expanding beyond New York, other artworks explore cityscapes throughout the Americas, ranging from Asilia Guillén’s Lake Managua to Sylvia de Leon Chalreo’s painting of people taking to the streets of Rio de Janeiro.
Lorenzo Homar, La guagua, 1955. Collection of El Museo del Barrio, New York. Gift of Susan Sollins in Memory of Sonya Peretz Sollins and Irving V. Sollins. W92.248.14.
Representing one of the main areas of focus of El Museo’s permanent collection, this section emphasizes artworks that use graphic reproducibility to put images and social messages into mass circulation. The section includes 16th century illustrations about the Americas produced for European audiences; linocuts created in Mexico and Puerto Rico between the 1930s and 1950s; serigraphs and posters created during the 1970s Nuyorican art movement; text-based installations and conceptual works; as well as artworks that expand beyond the printed page.
Taíno, Three-Pointer, A.D. 1200–1500. Collection of El Museo del Barrio, New York. Deposited in perpetuity by Dr. Ricardo Alegría. PC2000.9.1.
AFRICAN AND INDIGENOUS HERITAGES
El Museo was created at a moment when Taíno and African heritages were being reconsidered as fundamental to Puerto Rican cultural identity. This framework informs this section, which includes Taíno artifacts in dialogue with contemporary artworks created by Nuyorican and Puerto Rican artists including Diógenes Ballester, Nitza Tufiño, and Héctor Méndez-Caratini. These are juxtaposed with modern artworks from throughout the Americas such as the Orisha-inspired prints by Rubem Valentim and the fanciful animal paintings by Amazonian Indigenous artist Chico da Silva.
Yvette Mayorga, The Procession (After 17th-Century Vanitas) In loving memory of MM, 2020. Collection of El Museo del Barrio, New York. Acquisition Committee Gift, 2021. 2021.002.0001.001-004.
This section reflects the original commitment of El Museo to visual culture based on popular traditions since its first exhibition, The Art of Needlework (1970). Major bodies of works include Puerto Rican wooden santos (saints) created between the 19th and 20th centuries; masks created in Puerto Rico, Mexico, and South and Central America; sculptures by East Harlem artist Gregorio Marzán; vodou banners from Haiti; and embroidered Chilean arpilleras that protest political repression. A number of contemporary artists will also be featured, whose work reflects these practices, including recently acquired works from the museum’s 2021 inaugural La Trienal.
EVELYN LOPEZ DE GUZMAN
Evelyn López de Gúzman, Untitled, 1975. Collection of El Museo del Barrio, New York. Museum Purchase  through gifts from the Aguirre Family Fund and Boricua College and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. P92.249.
El Museo has a legacy of supporting women artists, from its early exhibitions of embroidery to its more recent Women’s Retrospective Series. Emerging from this history, this section presents work by women artists ranging across media, including craft, photography, painting and performance. Abstractionist languages offer a point of exploration, through works by Evelyn López de Gúzman, Zilia Sánchez and Raquel Rabinovich. The section also explores – and contests – the role of women in society, as in the maternal imagery of Louisiane Saint Fleurant and Rachelle Mozman’s photograph from her series “Casa de mujeres.”
DAVID ANTONIO CRUZ
David Antonio Cruz, Puerto Rican Pietá, 2006. Collection of El Museo del Barrio, New York. Museum Purchase through a gift from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation. 2015.7.
Self-representation is central to this section, with the term “Latinx” understood as a sign of both plurality and dissent. It is considered as a construction of identity that references Latin American heritage and ethnicity in the U.S., while also intersecting with African, Indigenous, queer, and trans identities. Symbolic objects and icons, flags, as well as depictions of the human figure are explored in terms of strategies of portraiture, identification, and community. The deconstruction of cultural myths such as the melting pot is addressed in works by David Antonio Cruz, Freddy Rodriguez, Elia Alba, and Nicolás Dumit Estévez, among others.