In “El lugar secreto que alberga los tesoros del arte y la cultura puertorriqueña” [The secret place that houses treasures of Puerto Rican art and culture], Aixa Sepúlveda (NotiCel) writes about the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture’s Visual Arts Program and their Art Collections Depot of the Unit [El Depósito de Arte de Unidad de Colecciones]. Many thanks to Peter Jordens for sharing the links shown below; see links to read the original, full article and watch video.
Four rooms with high ceilings, whose doors face each other, shelter more than 60,000 works by great Puerto Rican artists, documenting the history of our country. It is a history told through paintings, carvings, sculptures, drawings, military effects, furniture, and textiles, just to mention a few.
The Art Depot of the Collections Unit [El Depósito de Arte de Unidad de Colecciones], part of the Visual Arts program of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture (ICP), holds thousands of works that have been acquired or donated to the Institute and that become part of the cultural heritage of Puerto Rico.
This place, whose location is kept secret for obvious reasons, is a feast for history lovers, whether they enjoy art or not. Once the security door opens, you walk through a space characterized by extreme cleanliness. One can feel the temperature variations in each room—controlled with the purpose of keeping each piece of artwork in excellent conditions.
One of the rooms shelters more than 800 works that are part of one of 11 collections that are preserved in the warehouse. Each one is hung on high-density rails, which protect them from non-catastrophic earth movements, all organized by numbers. Almost as if it were a human being, each painting has a number that identifies it and its destination, in the case that it will be borrowed for an exhibition. Its information is stored carefully on a sheet and in a database that guarantees its security.
On one of those rails you can see, for example, the historical documentation of the Spanish-American War through the paintings of Manuel Jordán. As a chronicler of his time, the artist transports the contemporary audience to the scene of the 1898 war with his painting “Scene of the Hispano-American War,” in which two warships can be seen in the middle of a bombing. The scene is observed from some point in Cataño.
A nearby rail also carries 22 of José Campeche’s paintings, among which is the famous piece “El Niño Juan Pantaleón Avilés,” which shows a naked child born without arms and with deformed legs whose portrait was painted at the request of Bishop Arizmendi in 1806.
On another, we find the works of Consuelo Peralta, an artist who appeared around Campeche’s time, but about whom little information exists because of the scarce importance that was afforded to the women of the time.
In the adjoining room, furniture, armchairs, tables and tableware, among other objects, transport us along a historical journey, for many, perhaps, a voyage of nostalgia. There we can find leather furniture, some engraved with the Spanish coat of arms, and others worked in [traditional] wickerwork, showing the evolution towards a material that is fresher for the Caribbean climate. Among the furniture collections of greater antiquity are those of Guayama’s Casa Ledé (1850) and Ponce’s Casa Margarida.
In the coldest spaces in the depot are preserved all works on paper. [. . .] Many of the posters kept on acid-free paper, to ensure their preservation, show coldly some of the battles that were left abandoned in time. This is seen in the poster of the film “Modesta,” made by the Community Education Division of the Department of Public Instruction (DIVEDCO) in the 1950s. The poster of this film, which participated in the Cannes Festival, shows a drawing of a bitter woman with a smaller image of a man with a hostile gesture to illustrate the topic of gender violence.
In the same vein, there is the poster of the film “Juan sin seso,” in which a critique is made of those minds that responded blindly and unquestioningly to the press and television advertising in a recently industrialized Puerto Rico.
[. . .] “The Visual Arts program receives funding from the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, which in turn feeds on funds from the central government. In a climate of fiscal austerity, all the agencies have suffered and the ICP has not been the exception. In 2017, we had a 90% cut and, in 2018, we sponsored many cultural activities to promote culture through all its manifestations with federal funds. We are designing a business model to receive aid from central government funds and federal funds that may help us move forward,” explained interim director of the Institute’s Visual Arts Program, María del Mar Caragol Rivera.
“The cultural heritage we have here offers us a window into the past that allows us to understand who we are, where we come from, and where we are going. And [it expresses] that, undoubtedly, [these cultural products] are part of the idiosyncrasy of a country, and part of that idiosyncrasy is to define us as a culture. It is important that we preserve these works and make them available through different means, so that other people can understand more deeply what makes our history so important as Caribbean people,” she concluded.
Excerpts translated by Ivette Romero. For full article, see https://www.noticel.com/vida/el-lugar-secreto-que-alberga-los-tesoros-del-arte-y-la-cultura-puertorriquena/1065845197
See “La ‘bóveda’ del ICP: una ventana a nuestra historia” (5-minute video) at