Hispanic Society of America

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Hispanic Society of America
Hispanic Society museum building on Audubon Terrace
Hispanic Society of America is located in Manhattan
Hispanic Society of America
Location of the Hispanic Society in New York City
Hispanic Society of America is located in New York
Hispanic Society of America
Hispanic Society of America (New York)
Hispanic Society of America is located in the United States
Hispanic Society of America
Hispanic Society of America (the United States)
EstablishedMay 18, 1904; 118 years ago (1904-05-18)
LocationNew York City
Coordinates40°50′01″N 73°56′47″W / 40.833521°N 73.946514°W / 40.833521; -73.946514
TypeArt museum
Research library
Collection size6,800 paintings
1,000 sculptures
175,000 photographs
250,000 books
DirectorMitchell Codding
Public transit accessSubway: "1" train at 157th Street
Bus: Bx6, Bx6 SBS, M4, M5, M100
WebsiteOfficial website Edit this at Wikidata
The Hispanic Society's 1930 north building (left) and sculptures
Certificate of membership for Benito Pérez Galdós

The Hispanic Society of America operates 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 Spanish East Indies, and Portuguese India. Despite the name, it has never functioned as a learned society.

Founded in 1904 by philanthropist Archer M. Huntington, the institution continues to operate at its original location in a 1908 Beaux Arts building on Audubon Terrace in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. 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 as a National Historic Landmark in 2012. In 2021, the museum expanded into the former home of the Museum of the American Indian, adjacent to the museum's original building.


The museum contains more than 18,000 works in every medium, ranging from prehistoric times to the 20th century. The collection includes important paintings by Diego Velázquez, Francisco de Goya, El Greco, and Joaquín Sorolla, among others. It also includes sculpture and architectural elements, furniture and metalwork, ceramics and textiles.

The Sorolla Room, which was reinstalled in 2010, displays Vision of Spain, 14 massive paintings commissioned by Archer Huntington in 1911. Sorolla completed these works from 1913 to 1919. These paintings total more than 200 linear feet (61 m); they ring the large room and depict scenes from the regions of Spain.

The library contains more than 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 Vespucio.

The society has been described as "perhaps New York's most misunderstood institution", because it was established to concentrate on Old Spain and its culture in its colonies, as opposed to Hispanic American culture, despite its location in what has over time become a predominately Hispanic (chiefly Dominican) neighborhood.[1] In 2012 it was suggested that the museum (although not the society) be renamed the "Archer M. Huntington Museum of Art" to clarify this distinction, but the name change was never pursued.[2]

Expansion and renovations[edit]

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 building adjacent to the society's original museum building. It was formerly used by the Museum of the American Indian, which had moved years before to the former U.S. Custom House in lower Manhattan.[3]

Beginning January 1, 2017, the museum was closed for extensive renovations, although the library was open on a limited basis by appointment only. The $15 million project will replace the building's roof and lighting.[4] Originally scheduled to reopen in the fall of 2019, the main museum is still closed as of early 2022, but the new East Building Gallery, formerly the Museum of the American Indian, was opened in 2021 for rotating exhibitions.

While the museum was closed, many of its works were 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.[5] The exhibit 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.[6][7]

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.[8] As of 2022, admission to the new galleries is free.

In 2020 the museum appointed Guillaume Kientz, former curator at the Louvre and the Kimbell Art Museum, as its new director.[9]

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lee, Felicia R. (November 11, 2011). "An Outpost for Old Spain in the Heights". New York Times. And though its name suggests a connection to the mostly Latino neighborhood it inhabits, the museum primarily celebrates the Old World cultures of Spain and Portugal, not the arts and traditions of the New World lands they colonized. The potential audience just outside the museum’s doors has never had much contact with it.
  2. ^ Olnytzky, Ula (March 3, 2012). "Hispanic museum seeks to make itself known". Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Retrieved March 22, 2022.
  3. ^ Catton, Pia (April 20, 2015). "New Chairman Hopes to Boost Profile of Often-Overlooked Museum". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
  4. ^ Hispanic Society of America to Close on New Year's Day for More Than 2 Years, ny1.com, December 30, 2016, accessed March 2, 2017
  5. ^ Museo del Prado News, accessed March 2, 2017
  6. ^ Roberts, Kathleen (October 28, 2018). "ABQ first U.S. stop for historic collection of art". Albuquerque Journal. Retrieved February 10, 2019.
  7. ^ Newsletter of the Hispanic Society, February 2020
  8. ^ Hispanic Society is so broke it's asking to charge visitors, New York Post, August 6, 2016, accessed March 2, 2017
  9. ^ "Guillaume Kientz Named Director at Hispanic Society". Hispanic Network Magazine | A Hispanic News Source. December 27, 2020. Retrieved December 29, 2020.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°50′01″N 73°56′47″W / 40.833521°N 73.946514°W / 40.833521; -73.946514