News / USA

Texas Boasts World-Class Latin American Art

San Antonio Museum’s Nelson A. Rockefeller Center contains 8,000 pieces of art

You’d be hard-pressed to recognize the elegant San Antonio Museum of Art building as having once housed a bustling, smelly brewery.
You’d be hard-pressed to recognize the elegant San Antonio Museum of Art building as having once housed a bustling, smelly brewery.

Multimedia

Audio
Ted Landphair

Members of the wealthy Rockefeller family of New York helped establish the Museum of Modern Art and revive the old Cloisters medieval museum, both in New York City. The Rockefellers contributed to the restoration of Versailles Palace in France. And the estate of former New York governor Nelson Rockefeller made possible the most comprehensive collection of Latin American art in the United States, in San Antonio, Texas.

Sixty percent of San Antonians have Spanish surnames. America’s seventh-largest city is full of colorful murals, window decorations, and wildly painted automobiles created by Hispanics. Yet the San Antonio Museum of Art, which is housed in a 225-year old refurbished brewery complex, built its reputation primarily on its antiquities collection from Egypt, Greece, and Rome.

This cherub from the museum’s collection was fashioned of painted wood and glass eyes in the mid-1700s, after Spanish Catholics had introduced the concept of angels.
This cherub from the museum’s collection was fashioned of painted wood and glass eyes in the mid-1700s, after Spanish Catholics had introduced the concept of angels.

But several years ago, the museum hosted a touring exhibition featuring 30 centuries of Mexican artistic splendor. Over three months, 300,000 people visited the exhibit.

This success story got the San Antonio Museum to focus on the Hispanic culture around it. Its board of directors voted to build a new center of Latin American art within the museum. When it opened in 1998, the center was named for Nelson Rockefeller, whose family contributed several pieces of Mexican folk art that Rockefeller had owned. He had scoured Latin America for unusual contemporary art and helped legitimize the Latin folk-art genre.

His collection includes a painting depicting Mexican artist Diego Rivera’s visit to Moscow in the 1920s. That’s ironic, since it was the Rockefeller family that commissioned the Marxist painter to create a fabulous mural in New York’s new Rockefeller Center, only to order it destroyed because Rivera included a depiction of Russian leader Vladimir Lenin, as well as scenes deemed to be socialist.

The San Antonio Museum of Art built its reputation on its outstanding collection of Greek and Roman art, including this piece, a gift of Gilbert M. Denman, Jr.
The San Antonio Museum of Art built its reputation on its outstanding collection of Greek and Roman art, including this piece, a gift of Gilbert M. Denman, Jr.

Other U.S. museums can boast of fine collections of pre-Columbian art -- that is, art created before Europeans explored the Americas -- or Spanish Colonial, republican, folk, or contemporary Latin art. But none covers all five categories as completely as the San Antonio Museum’s 3,000-square-meter Nelson A. Rockefeller Center. Its 8,000 pieces of art -- only a few hundred of which can be displayed at one time -- range from Peruvian textiles to Costa Rican stone warriors to a wide variety of religious statues and paintings.

Marion Oettinger, Junior, the collection’s first curator, told us that the Rockefeller center is, in his words, "a way of peering into the soul, the values, the perspectives, and the sense of well-being of Latin America through artifacts."

Oettinger, who is now director of the entire museum, says an even more important mission may be to remind some of the 12 million annual visitors to San Antonio who DON’T share a Latin heritage, and perhaps have never even seen a Hispanic neighborhood, of the cultural importance of Latin America. At the San Antonio Museum of Art, they can walk among four thousand years of Latin American art.

In fact, says director Oettinger, "There’s an expression, el alma entre los dedos -- ‘the soul between the fingers.’" This, he says, is where the folk artist’s creativity and passion reside -- between the fingers.

Two years ago, San Antonio extended its world-famous River Walk canal and strolling path three kilometers to the very door of the museum. That exposed even more visitors to the single-most comprehensive collection of Latin American art north of Mexico City.

You May Like

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More