Art and Imagination in Spanish America, 1500-1800

  • Oct 20, 2023Jan 28, 2024
  • Nashville, TN


This exhibition at the Frist Art Museum features highlights from LACMA’s collection –including textiles, paintings and decorative arts– offering a lucid alternative to traditional interpretations of art from the so-called New World.

Imperial expansion, conquest, colonization, and the transatlantic slave trade marked the period spanning from 1500 to 1800. Cataclysmic social and geopolitical shifts brought people into closer contact than ever before in real and imagined ways, propelling the creative refashioning of the material culture that surrounded them. After the Spaniards began colonizing the Americas in the late fifteenth century and set out to spread Christianity, artists working there drew from a range of traditions –Indigenous, European, Asian, and African– reflecting the interconnectedness of the world. Private homes and civic and ecclesiastic institutions soon teemed with imported and local objects.

Spanish America was neither a homogeneous nor a monolithic entity, and local artists, including those who remain unidentified, were not passive absorbers of foreign traditions. While acknowledging the profound violence that marked the process of conquest and colonization, this exhibition explores the intricate social, economic, and artistic dynamics of these societies that led to the creation of astounding new artworks –many shipped to other locales in their own day.

This exhibition of paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts underscores the generative power of Spanish America and its central position as a global crossroads. The works are drawn from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s notable collection of Spanish colonial art, which has largely been formed in the last fifteen years.

This exhibition was originally held at LACMA –entitled Archive of the World– and includes an an accompanying catalogue edited by Ilona Katzew.

Learn more