AUSTIN, Texas — More than 5,000 works of art by U.S. Latino artists are now at the Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin as part of an initiative to expand the museum’s focus on Latino art. The artworks come from the Gilberto Cárdenas and Dolores Garcia Collection, one of the largest private collections of Chicano and Latino art in the world.
The Blanton, known for its collection of American contemporary art and one of the oldest and most distinguished collections of Latin American art in the U.S., has long been committed to exhibiting and researching Latino art, even before such efforts became more prevalent. This is one of the reasons Cárdenas, a former UT Austin professor and pioneer in the field of Latino art, and his wife Garcia, a UT Austin alumna who worked to advance Latino arts and academic programming at the university for 30 years, selected the Blanton to receive more than half of their collection.
“For decades, Gilberto Cárdenas has supported and championed Latino and Chicano artists, built an important collection, and consistently encouraged museums to feature Latino art,” said Museum Director Simone Wicha. “Latino culture is an essential part of U.S. culture, especially here in the Southwest, and our shared commitment to representing and amplifying Latino history and voices through art prompted me to begin this collaboration with Gilberto and Dolores.”
During the next five years, the Blanton will research and digitize all the artworks. In keeping with Cárdenas’ efforts to encourage greater representation in museum collections across the country, the Blanton will select works to donate to institutions nationwide, though the majority will remain at the museum to maintain the collection’s narrative thread and serve as a resource for UT’s student body and faculty as well as the wider public community.
“As part of a public research university, providing first-class education to more than 60,000 students, and a Hispanic Serving Institution, the Blanton plays a critical role in the educational and research work of this community,” Cárdenas and Garcia said in a statement. “We are confident that the research undertaken by the curatorial staff and the exhibitions and publications that result will represent a valuable contribution to the body of knowledge and understanding of this aspect of American art.”
Alongside the collection, the Blanton will welcome a new associate curator of Latino art, who will be fundamental in the research and presentation of these artworks. This new curatorial role will also help advance Latino studies across the UT campus by supporting faculty members, helping to train the next generation of historians of Chicano and Latino art, and developing educational and exhibition programming. The position is funded by Advancing Latinx Art in Museums, a new initiative supported by the Ford Foundation, the Getty Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the Terra Foundation for American Art.
Starting next month, visitors to the Blanton will be able to see many of the artworks from the Cárdenas/Garcia Collection in two new Latino art galleries on the museum’s upper level.
“The Blanton’s new dedicated gallery spaces will ensure that these artworks, as well as Latino art more generally, have a constant, dedicated presence for museum visitors and for scholars who come from far and wide to research this landmark collection,” said Vanessa Davidson, the Blanton’s curator of Latin American art.
The inaugural exhibition in the new galleries will open in March and will feature portraits from the collection by Chicano artists.