The Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) has launched an initiative focused on expanding its commitment to Latino art. As part of this expansion, the museum has obtained 5,650 artworks from the Gilberto Cárdenas and Dolores Garcia Collection, and has developed a new curatorial position focused on Latino art.
One of the largest private collections of Chicano and Latino art in the world, the Gilberto Cárdenas and Dolores Garcia Collection has been built over six decades. Though the collection includes works in a variety of mediums, a substantial number of pieces are prints created from the 1960s to today. According to a press release from the Blanton, the Cárdenas/Garcia Collection tells “the story of the origins, history, and advancement of the Latino communities in the United States, with the overarching mission of ensuring that these communities’ diverse artistic output is recognized as a foundational component of American society and its culture.”
Dr. Cárdenas, a former sociology professor at UT, and his wife Mrs. Garcia, a retired UT employee who has supported and curated Latino arts programming, said in a statement, “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. The Cárdenas/Garcia collection at the museum will provide access to Latino art for the student body and faculty for discovery and research, in addition to serving as a resource for the Austin community.”
Blanton director Simone Wicha commented, “For decades, Dr. Gilberto Cárdenas has supported and championed Latino and Chicano artists, built an important collection, and consistently encouraged museums to feature Latino art. 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.”
Along with obtaining works from the Cárdenas/Garcia Collection, the Blanton is one of ten museums to receive funding from Advancing Latinx Art in Museums, a new initiative launched collaboratively by the Ford Foundation, the Getty Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the Terra Foundation for American Art. Through Advancing Latinx Art in Museums, each institution received $500,000 to support the creation of permanent early and/or mid-career curatorial positions focused on Latinx art. The Blanton will use the funds to support the position for five years as it develops longer-term funding. Other museums awarded this grant include the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; El Museo del Barrio, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; and Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico, San Juan.
The Blanton’s new Associate Curator of Latino Art will work to research, document, and exhibit the newly acquired works from the Cárdenas/Garcia Collection. The curator will work closely with the museum’s curator of Latin American art, Vanessa Davidson, as well as with other curatorial staff. Beyond the museum, the new curator will support UT’s Latino Studies program by working with faculty, training Chicano and Latino art historians, and creating educational and exhibition programming.
Additionally, the Blanton has announced it will open two new Latino art gallery spaces in March 2023 with a selection of portraits. The exhibition, titled Cara a Cara / Face to Face: Chicano Portraits from the Gilberto and Dolores Cárdenas Collection, will feature pieces by artists working various mediums ranging from printmaking to digital photography. Ms. Davidson has acknowledged the importance of these new gallery spaces to demonstrate a constant presence of Latino art in the museum.