Spain and the Hispanic World opens at Royal Academy

In 1882, Archer M. Huntington, the son of an American railroad tycoon, made his first visit to Europe and found a book about Spanish gypsies in a Liverpool bookshop. “Spain must be much more interesting than Liverpool,” he wrote in his diary. It was the beginning of a lifelong passion, which saw Huntingdon create the most comprehensive collection of Spanish and Hispanic art outside of Spain. In 1908, he opened the Hispanic Society Museum & Library in New York to display his treasures. The museum is currently closed for refurbishment, and the Royal Academy has taken the opportunity to borrow more than 150 of its best pieces.  

Spain and the Hispanic World is an unusual show for the RA as the objects are exhibited with little context or history. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but, oh my, are there some gorgeous things.

Spain and the Hispanic World exhibition at the Royal Academy

There you will find a belt buckle of garnets and glittering green glass, renaissance door knockers in the form of mythical beasts and birds, shimmering Alhambra silks, Joaquin Sorolla's sun-drenched seascapes and Giovanni Vespucci’s 1526 World Map. And then of course there is Velazquez's Portrait of a girl  and Goya’s haughty and beautiful black duchess.

We begin in the ancient world with geometric-patterned earthenware vessels decorated by the Bell Beaker people of the third millennium BC and ends with Sorolla'series of colossal canvases created for the Hispanic Society Museum and Library depicting different regions of Spain. 

A richly illustrated book of highlights from the Hispanic Society Museum & Library has been published to accompany the exhibition.

The show runs until 10 April 2023 and is open daily 10am-6pm (Friday 9pm).

Tickets are £22-£24.50. Concessions are available.