Displaying the finest ensemble of Puerto Rican art on the island, the Museo de Arte (787/977-6277, www.mapr.org) is housed in another graceful structure blending Neoclassical styles, built in 1920 and originally serving as a hospital. The gallery is a short walk east of the market, at Avda José de Diego 299. The museum’s two main floors are arranged thematically, in roughly chronological order from the seventeenth century to the present day. Start in Gallery 6, in the southern wing on the first floor (“level 3”), which has a modest display of santos (carved wooden figures representing the saints), followed by Gallery 7, featuring religious art of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The highlight here is the piercing, anonymous image of the black Christ, El Señor de Esquípulas (1690–1710), recalling the sacred icon of the same name in Guatemala.
Gallery 8 contains a few devotional paintings from eighteenth-century Rococo master José Campeche, while Gallery 10 charts the move from Realism to the more idealized Costumbrista school and contains several works by celebrated artists Miguel Pou and Francisco Oller, including the latter’s tropical still-life series. The northern wing houses the Ángel Ramos and Tina Hill collection, thirty paintings that cover the 1940s to 1960s. Highlights include Rafael Tufiño’s La Perla (1969) and ten paintings by Spanish-born Ángel Botello (1913–1986), who drew much inspiration from the Caribbean (particularly Haiti) and spent most of his career in Puerto Rico.
The second floor (“level 4”) contains the museum’s substantial collection of contemporary painting, sculpture and installation art; the works are organized thematically, but exhibits are often moved around. You can also check out the peaceful sculpture garden on the lower floor (“level 2”).