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Underrated Museums Of NYC: El Museo Del Barrio

Art Scene

Underrated Museums Of NYC: El Museo Del Barrio

Home to more than 100 different museums and cultural institutions, New York is an epicenter for art and creativity truly unlike any other. Aside from the natural clout surrounding the five boroughs, the city’s rich culture and diverse history take the inspiration into high gear.

With so many different NYC destinations to choose from, Duggal would like to highlight some of the more overlooked museums and cultural hotspots that don’t always make the “must see” lists. While the MoMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art are definitely not to be missed, let’s talk about some spots that will really show you the essence of New York City.

This month’s underrated art attraction is El Museo Del Barrio.

El Museo Del Barrio, often simply referred to simply as El Museo, is considered New York’s leading Latino cultural institution. El Museo proudly features the work of Latin American, Caribbean and Puerto Rican cultures in the United States.

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El Museo was first established by Raphael Montañez Ortiz in 1969 at 5th Ave. and East 104th St. in Manhattan, directly across from the east side of Central Park. The building housing the museum was originally a fire station during both the Nuyorican and Civil Rights movements, during which there were book burnings by political figures. As such, the museum’s website states it was originally established to “enhance the sense of identity, self-esteem and self-knowledge of the Caribbean and Latin American peoples by educating them in their artistic heritage and bringing art and artists into their communities.”

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The museum houses more than 8,500 pieces of artifacts, arts, crafts and pieces from pop culture. Its exhibits run the gamut of culturally-inspired works from artists and activists throughout the 20th century, as well as recent, more experimental works from local artists working in the city today.

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Figure and Form” is a year-long exhibit featuring a series of photographs, ceramics and sculptures by influential and culturally important artists that create a vivid picture of Latino culture in the past century. Among the most impressive of the featured artists is Julio Alpuy, a Uruguayan artist famous for his still-life paintings and brightly colorful cubist landscape work. The highlight of the exhibition, though, is a large painting called, Puerto Rican Pieta, a piece by David Antonio Cruz. Cruz is a highly influential Puerto Rican artist whose work has been featured in El Museo in the past. He works in several different media spaces exploring different psychological aspects of the human condition.

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One of El Museo’s most interesting exhibitions currently running is “Future Funk Fashion,” a brilliant and relatively new showcase of Antonio Lopez’s work. Lopez was known for expressing racial and ethnic diversity in high fashion with his bold and colorful illustrations, which have been featured in Women’s Wear Daily, Harper’s Bazaar and countless other publications. A selection of works from his estate, along with borrowed pieces from private collections, will be on display through the end of November 2016.

El Museo regularly hosts free events celebrating its heritage, and free children’s workshops. They also throw summer block parties with live music and dancing that really bring out the rich culture of celebration. While you’re at the museum, be sure to check out El Café, the small cafeteria offering a delicious and constantly changing ethnic menu.

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Overall, El Museo Del Barrio is a unique and fulfilling cultural experience that will leave you with a deeper understanding and fondness for the diverse cultures that, over the course of hundreds of years, have shaped the New York City you see today.

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