Puerto Rican artists working in visual art rarely get the recognition they deserve—strange, considering there’s a thriving art scene on the island. The local culture is a beautiful blend of Taíno (indigenous), Spanish, and West African influences, and Puerto Rican art mirrors this melange. It’s not unusual to see all three represented in the colorful, vibrant work you’ll find in the galleries, studios, and on the streets of the capital, San Juan.
If you’re staying at one of Hilton’s properties in and around the city, such as Embassy Suites by Hilton San Juan Hotel & Casino, you’re ideally positioned to experience some incredible Puerto Rican art. Here’s where to start.
Museum of Contemporary Art
The Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico, located in the Santurce neighborhood of San Juan, was established in 1984 by a group of local artists. Set in the historical Labra School building—a beautiful Georgian complex with a glass-encased courtyard—it houses both permanent and temporary exhibits from the middle of last century to the present day. The goal is for each visitor to walk out with a new appreciation for modern Puerto Rican art, an achievable task considering the breadth of its collection.
Location: The intersection of Avenida Juan Ponce de León and Avenida Roberto H. Todd
Hours: 10am to 4pm Tuesday through Friday; 10am to 5pm Saturday
Museum of Art of Puerto Rico
With a mixture of both contemporary art and works dating back to the 1600s displayed throughout its 13 galleries, the expansive Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico provides a look at Latin American and Puerto Rican history through the lens of the artist. Housed in what was once part of the Municipal Hospital of San Juan, MAPR features an architectural design that is a tasteful mixture of modern—the museum is less than 20 years old—and Spanish colonial. Permanent and temporary exhibits showcase the works of artists representing over a dozen Latin American and Caribbean nations.
When you’re finished taking in the art, the museum has a two-acre atrium with more than a dozen sculptures (made by Puerto Rican artists), three waterfalls, a koi pond, and tropical foliage to wander through—and forget for a while that you’re in the middle of the city.
Location: 299 Avenida José de Diego
Hours: 10am to 8pm Wednesday; 10am to5 pm Thursday through Saturday; 11am to 5pm Sunday
Calle Cerra Street Art
If San Juan is a hub for the Puerto Rican art scene, the neighborhood of Santurce is its center, figuratively speaking. Before leaving San Juan, you owe it to yourself to drive or walk along Santurce’s Calle Cerra.
The entire district is mid-renaissance, where hip and trendy shops and restaurants play second fiddle to the building façades, highway underpasses, and mini plazas that are transforming into literal works of art–each depicting an aspect of Puerto Rican culture and history. Whether your preference is Taíno designs, homages to the uprisings of the 1950s, tasteful nude portraits, or sculptures and contemporary art, you’ll see it all and then some on Calle Cerra. Words cannot describe the experience of witnessing the Puerto Rican pride represented along this street.
Local Puerto Rican Artists of Note
If you want to see how Puerto Rican artists wield their swords—or their pens, brushes, and spray paint cans—find an exhibition or catch them in action at a local installation. Here are four to watch out for:
Eduardo Cabrer – Eduardo has a studio in Santurce—open to the public by appointment—but you can also view his paintings on display at the Universidad del Sagrado Corazón in San Juan.
Natalia N. Rodriguez – Natalia mostly does street art sans studio space. You can see a great example of her work at Sabrina Brunch & Bistro Bar in San Juan.
Saribelle Munoz Bonilla – Check out Saribelle’s work—on canvas and silkscreen—at oceanupr.com, and watch out for her pops of color across stores in Puerto Rico.
Wichie Torres – While not based in San Juan, we’d be remiss for not including the late Wichie Torres in this list. Known for his distinctive work in the costumbrismo movement, Torres has pieces in cafes and restaurants across Ponce, in addition to his studio at 92 Calle Comercio, Ponce.
Hilton: Your Base for Artistic Exploration
No matter where you venture in this area, you’re only a few minutes from the Embassy Suites by Hilton San Juan Hotel & Casino. And if you’ve got some energy left after all that art hunting, the hotel’s Oasis Casino features nearly 300 slot machines, seven blackjack tables, roulette, and three-card poker.