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Domenikos Theotokopoulos' 'El Greco Saint Jerome' at The Hispanic Society Museum & Library. Photo: Alfonso Lozano
Domenikos Theotokopoulos' 'El Greco Saint Jerome' at The Hispanic Society Museum & Library. Photo: Alfonso Lozano

Rediscovering treasure and artwork at New York City’s Hispanic Society Museum & Library

The Hispanic Society Museum & Library will present rediscovered and treasured art for their ‘Nuestra Casa’ exhibition, open now through April 17.

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The Hispanic Society Museum & Library (HSM&L) in New York City will be housing their new exhibition — Nuestra Casa: Rediscovering Treasure of The Hispanic Society — from now until April 17.

The HSM&L is dedicated to preserving, studying and understanding art from Portuguese and Spanish-speaking cultures and communities.

Nuestra Casa opened on Feb. 17, and contains objects from the museum's collection which exceeds 750,000 items. Each is a part of the museum’s permanent collection. The HSM&L holds collections comprising various arts and cultures of Spain and Latin America.

The exhibition works to illuminate an expansive range of arts, literature and history from the Iberian Peninsula to Latin America, from antiquity to modern day.

The objects range in origin from Spain to Mexico, Puerto Rico, Peru and beyond with some objects historically considered masterpieces. 

A pyxis box from the 10th century is the oldest item in the exhibition. A pyxis is a small box intended to hold incense or perfume. The museum’s pyxis also has the artist’s signature preserved. 

The HSM&L believes the exhibition is coming at a moment when it’s necessary for traditional art historical hierarchies to be reassessed, to incorporate more diverse populations:

“The HSM&L’s collection extends much beyond the artwork of El Greco, Goya and Sorolla, to masterpieces within a range of mediums by relatively unknown Latin American artists, at times still unidentified, who have previously received little recognition,” stated the museum.

Curating Nuestra Casa

The Nuestra Casa collection was curated by Dr. Madeline Haddon, who met with AL DÍA to discuss the new exhibition. Haddon is a curator and art historian for NYC’s Museum of Modern Art.

Haddon has amassed a number of accolades in her career including a Fulbright Award. She has also conducted research in Spain and has held multiple curatorial positions.

She has been studying art history since college, where her interest in the subject flourished, as did an interest in curating historically remarkable works of art.

The curator’s time in Madrid helped to inform her dissertation, Local Color: Race, Gender, and Spanishness in European Painting, 1855-1927, and career interests going forward.

Last Fall, the current director of the HSM&L, Guillaume Kientz, asked Haddon to get involved in the exhibition and work with the collection. 

“I could not say no to an opportunity like that to work with the collection, to really dive in, and see what I wanted to pull out, and shape the narratives in a way that hasn’t been traditionally done within the past,” said Haddon.

The exhibition gave Haddon the chance to explore the Latin American art housed in the museum. Her research up until now has included 18th-early 20th century Spanish, Latin American, and Caribbean art.

Many of the featured objects have not been on display in NYC for some time, as the exhibition is on the road often, and has been touring since 2017.

The HSM&L is hoping to change this with their two-month display. After Nuestra Casa closes on April 17, the objects will be sealed away from NYC until 2023.

There are plans for the exhibition to move on from NYC to the Art Gallery of Ontario and The Savile Row Academy in London.

One goal for the exhibition is to spur discussion by addressing the politics and history behind Latin America and Spain’s relationship.

“For all of the artwork in the exhibition, I want viewers to appreciate them for their beauty and artistry and mastery at their own lengths as these incredible objects and works of art… particularly in the contexts of this neglection that they’re from colonial Latin America, to show their very dark and harsh history… that were often glossed over,” said Haddon.

On display at the East Building Gallery

When you walk into the exhibition, you are greeted by El Costeño (1843), an oil painting on canvas by Mexican artist Agustin Arrieta. The piece stands out for its vibrant use of color in its pictured basket of fruit.

Presenting the portrait as the first object was intentional, representing Afro-Hispanic populations. The piece is one of Haddon’s favorites in the entire exhibition. 

Haddon describes the painting as a “stunning, really regal portrait of a young man of Afro-Hispanic descent,” and not what people may expect to first see when they walk in.

The figure in the portrait is unknown, as was his occupation. Objects such as El Costeño were chosen to highlight the often overlooked prominence of Afro-Hispanic people in Spain during the period.

Nuestra Casa: Rediscovering Treasure of The Hispanic Society is on display in the museum’s East Building Gallery. 

The Hispanic Society Museum & Library is operating as partially open, with the East Building Gallery open for special exhibitions, and the museum’s main building closed for renovations.

The exhibition is open Thursdays to Sundays from 12:00-6:00 p.m. EST. Visitors must show I.D. and proof of a COVID-19 vaccination, be masked, and observe six-feet of social distance.

Every Saturday now until April 17, at 1:00 p.m. EST, limited space tours will also be available. 

RSVP by emailing [email protected]; include personal contact info, number of guests, and your desired visit date. Groups larger than eight may need to spread their visit  across more than one date.

Admission to the museum is free. The HSM&L is situated at Audubon Terrace in Upper Manhattan, west of Broadway between 155th and 156th Streets, New York, NY, 10032.

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