Six years since the National Gallery closed, disaster and shame in Puerto Rico

In “Seis años de cerrada la Galería Nacional, debacle y vergüenza de Puerto Rico,” Puerto Rico Art News blogger Edwin Velázquez Collazo brings attention (in this 2019 post) to what he calls the “debacle and shame” of the ongoing closure of the National Gallery of Puerto Rico. Many thanks to Veerle Poupeye for sharing, and to David Auerbach and Pablo Delano for encouraging me to translate it. Auerbach shared this 2019 post as part of discussions on how there has been renewed attention given to renowned Puerto Rican artist José Campeche, after the recent verification that the painting “Portrait of a Lady” had been, for many years, wrongly attributed to Spanish painter Francisco Goya, while little has been done to highlight the richness of this type of artwork, most of which is presently unavailable to the public. [See previous post No Goya, no problem.] Velázquez Collazo writes:

I wanted to share with our readers these splendid photos by my friend Jorge Rosado of what was once the National Gallery of Puerto Rico. Of the wonderful and magical place that all Puerto Ricans once had to enjoy art, and especially the collection that belongs to us as a people, to the country, and to the next generations.

It is a shame that—due to the incompetence and neglect of our cultural leaders, the government, and our legislators—this grandiose venue for the enjoyment of art has not yet been reopened, which this year (2019) will mark 6 years since that fateful decision taken by the director of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture [Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña (ICP)] at the time, Lilliana Ramos Collado, who closed the National Gallery of Puerto Rico in 2013 after it was inaugurated in 2007.

In an interview with Mariela Fullana Acosta, a journalist for Primera Hora in 2014, the then director pointed out, “I decided to stop construction in order to find out how things were doing in terms of inspections because, apparently, the person who was directing the Historical Building Heritage and Permanent Improvements [Patrimonio Histórico Edificado y Mejoras Permanentes] program until the summer, had not required from the contractors and designers construction and archaeological permits. We did not find those permits and we could not continue building,” said Ramos Collado to explain why she discontinued work at the National Gallery at the time.

In that interview, she also assured that those permitting and remodeling works would be completed by the summer of that year and that by the end of 2014, she would reopen the Gallery. But that did not happen; because of this and other situations or discrepancies with the Board of Directors of ICP, her resignation was requested in August 2014.

In April 2017, the current director of the ICP, Professor Carlos R. Ruiz Cortés, in an interview for El Adoquín, pointed out the following: “Part of this interest is due to the fact that during the past months, the ICP has been reopening historic buildings such as Contrafuertes, and soon the Corralón and the National Gallery, with the aim of turning San Juan into a cultural district in the future.”

Six years after that painful closing date and promises by the current director that it would reopen, the National Gallery of Puerto Rico is still closed off to the country and to those who visit us, denying the Puerto Rican people the right to enjoy one of their richest heritage troves of their culture, the National Collection of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture.

Translated by Ivette Romero. For full article (in Spanish), and additional photographs, see https://www.puertoricoartnews.com/2019/06/diez-anos-cerrada-la-galeria-nacional.html

To contact the author, write to velazquezarte@gmail.com

[Photo above by Jorge Rosado: Galería Nacional de Puerto Rico.]

One thought on “Six years since the National Gallery closed, disaster and shame in Puerto Rico

  1. Me preocupa cuan protegidas estén las Pinturas (si es que todavia esten alli expuestas)
    Un lugar cerrado por tanto tiempo es criadero de hongos.
    ¿Alguien sabe al respecto?

    Que pena, que coraje y que impotencia.

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