El Museo del Barrio, New York’s leading Latino cultural institution, is located in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York City, United States, also known as El Barrio. El Museo welcomes visitors of all backgrounds to discover the artistic landscape of the Latino, Caribbean, and Latin American cultures. Their richness is represented in its wide-ranging collections and exhibitions, complemented by film, literary, visual and performing arts series, cultural celebrations, and educational programs. A dynamic artistic, cultural, and community gathering place, El Museo is a center of cultural pride on New York’s Museum Mile
1960s El Museo is founded in 1969 by artist and educator Raphael Montañez Ortiz and a coalition of parents, educators, artists, and activists who noted that mainstream museums largely ignored Latino artists. Since its inception, El Museo is committed to celebrating and promoting Latino culture, thus becoming a cornerstone of El Barrio, and a valuable resource for New York City. 1970s El Museo serves as a non-profit organization out of a series of storefronts and brownstones before finding its permanent home in the Heckscher Building on 5th Avenue and 104th Street. This is a decade of firsts, including the first donation to the Permanent Collection, as well as the first large-scale exhibition collaboration with the Metropolitan Museum, The Art Heritage of Puerto Rico.
1980s El Museo begins this period by expanding its exhibitions, programs, and facilities, including the first renovation of El Museo’s galleries. The later half of the decade is marred by an investigation of El Museo’s fiscal management and the freezing of its funds, almost causing its closing. However, El Museo recovers after much of the staff work for free and its director is dismissed.
1990s The second renovations on the galleries are complete, the collection area is improved, the theatre and murals are renovated and restored, and financial stability is achieved. A new logo is introduced along with the first modifications to El Museo’s mission to much controversy from the community, which continues through the next decade.
2000s The current mission is finalized to include Puerto Ricans and all Latin Americans in the United States. An oral history and Permanent Collection project is completed consisting of a five-volume publication and a traveling exhibition.
2009 After undergoing extensive renovations to its City-owned facility, El Museo reopens to the public on Saturday, October 17, 2009, with two landmark exhibitions: Nexus New York: Latin/American Artists in the Modern Metropolis and Voces y Visiones: Forty Decades through El Museo del Barrio’s Permanent Collection. An all-day open house celebrates the launch of its expanded public programs and its 40th Anniversary year events. El Museo’s renovated and expanded facility designed by Gruzen Samton Architects hosts an exciting menu of public programming, the new Carmen Ana Unanue Galleries devoted to its permanent collection, and a café that serves as a multipurpose programming space, bringing a sparkling new face to Museum Mile’s only Latino institution. The construction project was administered by the New York City Department of Design and Construction. Design and construction was funded by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, with support from local elected officials.
El Museo del Barrio is the preeminent forum and resource in the U.S. dedicated to Caribbean, Latino, and Latin American art. Its varied Permanent Collection of over 6,500 objects spanning more than 800 years of Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino art includes pre-Columbian Taíno artifacts, traditional arts, twentieth-century drawings, paintings, sculptures, and installations, as well as prints, photography, documentary films, and video. The holdings divide into four main areas:
Modern and Contemporary art, particularly strong in Post War (1950 – the present) works, 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).
Graphics, including an excellent representation of Puerto Rican, Nuyorican, Mexican, and Chicano fine prints through the 20th and 21st centuries (over 4,000 works).
Taíno/Pre-Columbian, pan-Caribbean archeological objects, primarily from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, as well as fine photographs, graphics and contemporary works that have been influenced by the Taíno legacy (over 460 works).
Popular Traditions, including Santos de palo (over 300, primarily from Puerto Rico) and other devotional arts from the Santería, Candomblé and Orisha-worship traditions, masks (over 80, primarily from Mexico and Guatemala) and objects related to the celebration of Día de los Muertos (over 500 objects in total).
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