One of the most exceptional art museums in the world can be found in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Museo de Arte Ponce is considered one of the best museums in the Americas and was the first museum in Puerto Rico to receive the American Alliance of Museums’ accreditation. Its permanent collection consists of thousands of works of art from Europe, Africa, America, and Puerto Rico spanning from 900 B.C. to the 20th century.
The museum was founded by Luis A. Ferré, an industrialist, philanthropist, and governor of Puerto Rico from 1969 to 1972. Over more than four decades, he acquired works of the highest quality for the museum, focusing more on their value than their popularity. The museum opened its original location on January 3, 1959, in a colonial house at 70 Cristina Street with 72 works of art on display.
Concerns about the collection being destroyed by fire prompted Ferré to purchase property on Las Americas Avenue to relocate the museum. Architect Edward Durell Stone was chosen to design the new building, which started construction on April 23, 1964. The new location officially opened on December 28, 1965 and earned the American Institute of Architects’ International Design Award of Honor in 1967. In 2010, the museum underwent a $30 million expansion that increased its size by 40%.
Today, Museo de Arte Ponce holds around 4,500 pieces of art distributed among fourteen galleries. The collection includes Italian, British, Spanish, African, pre-Hispanic, and Latin-American art. Pieces include paintings, photographs, prints, drawings, sculptures, ceramics, decorative arts, three-dimensional objects, videos, and sound art installations.
The museum houses the Rosario Ferré Library, which holds one of the finest collections of art-related materials in Puerto Rico, on the third level of the Annex building. It also holds the Luis A. Ferré Collection, a large collection of documents related to the founder’s public and personal life. The Anton J. Konrad Conservation Laboratory, a non-profit center dedicated to the conservation of art works, can also be found here. In addition to protecting the collection in the museum, the laboratory also offers professional restoration services to cultural institutions, artists, and private collectors.
The museum’s hexagonal galleries make the building stand out from other museums on the island. They were designed this way to allow in lots of natural light to illuminate the exhibits. Visitors encounter a 28-foot-high aluminum sculpture by Roy Lichtenstein called “Brushstokes in Flight” on the front lawn of the building. The museum also has an amphitheater and two gardens to explore.
While there is a small admission fee for the public, the museum is primarily funded by donations from generous Puerto Rican donors. There is bronze plaque near the information booth at the front entrance that recognizes the individuals and businesses that have donated to the museum. One of the most significant donations was of 17 works of Renaissance and Baroque art in 1962 from a foundation created by Samuel H. Kress. The museum has also received numerous works from artists active in Puerto Rico.