Hispanic Heritage Week: Bronx Museum Sees Growing Interest In Latin American Art
Half of the Bronx 's 1.4 million residents are of Hispanic descent, but only one of its museums offer visitors a rich collection of art by Latin American artists. NY1's Shazia Khan filed the following report.
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The Bronx Museum of the Arts was founded in a small space inside the county courthouse in 1971. A lot has changed for the borough's cultural gem since its humble beginnings. The institution's new home on the Grand Concourse is a modern facility which today, among other works, exhibits and houses a large collection of Latin American art.
"In 1986 we recognized that very few museums were collecting in Latin American art at the time. So we did an enormous amount of research and culled and made a decision to collect works on paper of Latin American descent, primarily because it did reflect the Bronx's population," said Bronx Museum of the Arts Executive Director Holly Block.
Block, who is also the author of "Art Cuba: The New Generation," says more than 900 objects of all medium are part of its permanent collection focused both on contemporary Latin American art and works by Latin American artists. The pieces, promised to the museum, look at Taino Indian culture in Puerto Rico and other parts of the Caribbean. They're by the late Chinese American artist Martin Wong, who lived on Manhattan's Lower East Side.
"He painted and articulated much of the Lower East Side, which we know was a very strong, primarily Puerto Rican community and he was very much interested," Block said.
When the museum started to collect contemporary Latin American art in the mid 1980s, Block says, in general, prices were less competitive than today. She attributes that to a growing interest in the art and artists both here and in international markets.
"Now, years later, Latin American artists collecting is, collecting contemporary art can be seen as very expensive so it makes it harder for a museum of this scale to keep up with the competitive prices," Block said.
Block says the museum will continue its mission to collect and exhibit Latin American art and works by Latin American artists so the younger generation of artists in the Bronx and beyond will never lack inspiration or motivation.