The Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas in Austin has been at the forefront among museums in collecting modern and contemporary Latin American art since it opened in 1963. It is now strategically building up its holdings from the Spanish and Portuguese colonial era with an acquisition of 119 paintings, sculptures, furniture and silverwork collected by Roberta and Richard Huber.
The works, from countries across modern-day Latin America including Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador and Peru and dating from the late 1600s to the early 1800s, are valued at approximately $2.5 million.
“The Hubers started putting together this collection back in the ’70s when the world wasn’t paying attention to this area, certainly not in the United States,” said Simone Wicha, the director of the Blanton. “It fits so beautifully into us being able to contextualize Latin America, both at the museum and with our colleagues at the university, one of the leading research institutions dedicated to Latin American studies broadly.”
The Blanton first focused on pre-modern Latin America in 2016 by partnering with the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation to fund a curator in Spanish colonial art and lend works long-term from its collection in this period. This fall, “Painted Cloth: Fashion and Ritual in Colonial America,” showcasing objects from the Huber acquisition and Thoma collection, looks at the social role of textiles produced in Bolivia, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela during the 1600s and 1700s.
“We’re now able to look expansively at the continent and how the schools of art in each region were influenced not just by Spanish culture but by local culture and customs, flora and fauna,” Ms. Wicha said. “It’s ripe for a great deal of research.”