Hispanic Society museum building on Audubon Terrace
|Established||May 18, 1904|
|Location||New York City|
|Collection size||6,800 paintings|
|Public transit access||Subway: at 157th Street|
Bus: Bx6, Bx6 SBS, M4, M5, M100
The Hispanic Society of America is a museum and reference library for the study of the arts and cultures of Spain and Portugal and their former colonies in Latin America, the Philippines and Portuguese India. (Despite the name and the founder's intention, it has never functioned as a learned association.) Founded in 1904 by Archer M. Huntington, the institution remains at its original location in a 1908 Beaux Arts building on Audubon Terrace (at 155th Street and Broadway) in the lower Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City in the United States. A second building, on the north side of the terrace, was added in 1930. Exterior sculpture in front of that building includes work by Anna Hyatt Huntington and nine major reliefs by the Swiss-American sculptor Berthold Nebel, a commission that took ten years to complete. The Hispanic Society complex was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2012.
In 2017, the museum began a major renovation and is closed to the public until the work is completed. Much of the collection is on loan to other institutions during this period.
The museum contains more than 18,000 works in every medium, ranging from prehistoric times to the 20th century. There are important paintings by Diego Velázquez, Francisco de Goya, El Greco, and Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, among others, as well as sculpture and architectural elements, furniture and metalwork, ceramics and textiles.
A major component of this museum is the Sorolla Room which was reinstalled in 2010. It displays The Provinces of Spain, 14 massive paintings commissioned by Archer Huntington that Sorolla created from 1911 to 1919. These magnificent paintings, totaling over 200 linear feet (61 m), ring the large room and depict scenes from each of the provinces of Spain.
The library contains over 250,000 books, 200,000 documents, 175,000 photographs, and 15,000 prints. The rare books library maintains 15,000 books printed before 1700, including a first edition of Don Quijote. It also holds the manuscript Black Book of Hours Horae Beatae Virginis Mariae ad usum Romanum (circa 1458), one of only a handful of such works, and the enormous Map of the World (1526) by Juan Vespucci.
In April 2015 the society announced the appointment of Philippe de Montebello to chair the society's Board of Overseers and spearhead a major effort to roughly double the museum's size by renovating the vacant Beaux Arts former building of the Museum of the American Indian, adjacent to the society's original museum building. Beginning January 1, 2017, the museum is closed for extensive renovations, although the library is open on a limited basis by appointment only. The $15 million project will replace the building's roof and lighting. Originally scheduled to reopen in the fall of 2019, the museum is still closed as of early 2020.
While the museum is closed, many of its works are being lent to other institutions. About 200 of the society's most important works were displayed from April through September 2017 at the Museo del Prado in Madrid. The exhibit then traveled to the Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City from June through September 2018; the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, November 2018 through March 2019; the Cincinnati Art Museum, October 2019 through January 2020; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston from March to May 2020.
Although admission to the museum has always been free in accordance with Archer Huntington's trust, due to financial difficulties the society went to court in 2016 in order to be allowed to charge an admission fee to temporary exhibitions to be held in the museum's new facility, while keeping the main hall free.
The Hispanic Society of America is perhaps New York’s most misunderstood institution.
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