Latin American Masterpieces at Los Angeles Museums

“La Calavera Don Quijote” by Felipe Linares at the Fowler Museum | Photo courtesy of williamaveryhudson, Flickr

Los Angeles has a rich Latino heritage, and the city’s vibrant Latino communities continue to influence and make lasting contributions its culture. It comes as no surprise that L.A.’s world-famous museums are teeming with outstanding artworks by Latin American masters. Read on for a guide to selected masterpieces of Latin American art at Los Angeles museums.

Antonio de Torres, "Virgin of Guadalupe (Virgen de Guadalupe)," c. 1725 (detail), gift of Kelvin Davis through the 2014 Collectors Committee | Photo © 2014 Museum Associates / LACMA

Virgin of Guadalupe - LACMA

A significant donation of art works by collectors Edith and Bernard Lewin established the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) as one of the nation’s largest repositories of Latin American art. A select portion of the permanent collection is on view in the Latin American Art galleries on the fourth floor of the Art of the Americas Building. The permanent exhibition includes ecclesiastical gowns from the Spanish colonial era as well as the Virgin of Guadalupe (Virgen de Guadalupe), a painting by Antonio de Torres (c. 1725).

Not currently on public view.

Associated American Artists, Taller de Gráfica Popular, and Fernando Castro Pacheco - "Working with Ixtle," 1946 (detail) | © Taller de Gráfica Popular, photo © 2014 Museum Associates / LACMA

Taller de Gráfica Popular - LACMA

Also on view at LACMA are socio-political criticisms manifested in art by the Taller de Gráfica Popular (“The People’s Print Workshop”), commonly known as the TGP, an artist collective dedicated to promoting anti-nationalist views through the realistic depiction of life’s hardships. Works include linoleum cuts and prints by TGP founders, Luis Arena, Paul O’Higgins, Raúl Anguiano and Leopoldo Méndez.

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Street Corner, Brick Building (Esquina, edificio de ladrillo) - LACMA

Muralists José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros were known as "Los Tres Grandes" (the Big Three). Orozco, however, was more interested in capturing real life moments to help nurture a New Art for the New World. His 1929 painting Street Corner, Brick Building (Esquina, edificio de ladrillo) is an example of this notion: it’s a street scene many urban residents around the world can still relate to today.

Not currently on public view.

Frida Kahlo - "Weeping Coconuts (Cocos gimientes)," 1951 (detail) | © 2012 Banco de México Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museum Trust. Photo © 2014 Museum Associates / LACMA

Weeping Coconuts (Cocos gimientes)

Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo were a power couple in the Mexico art scene and beyond. Kahlo became famous around the world for her self-portraits and still-life oil paintings. The 18-year-old Kahlo began to discover painting during her recovery after a major traffic accident. Kahlo’s painting Weeping Coconuts (Cocos gimientes) is a great example of her style, a mixture of Mexican folk art and surrealism.

Weeping Coconuts is part of LACMA’s permanent collection and is currently on view on the third floor of The Broad in Downtown LA.

Photographers capture "Flower Day" at LACMA | Photo by @discoverLA, Instagram

Flower Day (Día de Flores)

Diego Rivera is renowned for portraits of his wife, the iconic Kahlo, and his larger-than-life mural art, which was greatly influenced by his years spent in Europe, in particular the beauty of Italian frescoes. Flower Day (Día de Flores) is perhaps his most famous work. The 1925 painting is one of Rivera’s earliest depictions of a calla lily vendor - the majestic flowers are seen from above in all their beauty. Flower Day is an audience magnet and is currently on view at The Broad in Downtown LA.

La Calavera Don Quijote at the Fowler Museum
“La Calavera Don Quijote” by Felipe Linares at the Fowler Museum | Photo courtesy of williamaveryhudson, Flickr

La Calavera Don Quijote - Fowler Museum

Focused on enhancing the understanding and appreciation of diverse cultures from around the world, the Fowler Museum at UCLA offers visitors the unique opportunity to get acquainted with a quintessential Mexican symbol: the “Tree of Life” figurines. The ceramic or clay sculptures may emphasize biblical or historical events in intricate detail and vary greatly in size.

Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives is a long-term exhibition that features 250 objects from the Fowler's collections, dating from the first millennium B.C.E. to the present. Intersections celebrates the richness of world arts and considers the roles these works of art play in peoples' lives.

Currently on view in the exhibition is La Calavera Don Quijote, a Mexican cartonería (paper-maché sculpture) by artist Felipe Linares. The sculpture is inspired by José Guadalupe Posada’s rendering of Miguel de Cervantes’ beloved character, Don Quixote.

The Fowler Museum is open Wednesday noon to 5 p.m., Thursday noon to 8 pm, and noon to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday. For more information, visit

"The Flower Vendor (Girl with Lilies)" at the Norton Simon Museum
"The Flower Vendor (Girl with Lilies)" by Diego Rivera at the Norton Simon Museum (detail) | Photo courtesy of Joaquín Martínez Rosado, Flickr

The Flower Vendor (Girl with Lilies) - Norton Simon Museum

Flowers are a recurring symbol in Diego Rivera’s work. The 1941 masterpiece The Flower Vendor (Girl with Lilies) is on view at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. The painting shows a young woman, her back turned, embracing a bundle of white lilies. Rivera’s art was a tribute to the culture and tradition of the Mexican people. “There is need for an art profoundly pure, precise, profoundly human and clarified as to its purpose,” Rivera said in 1929. A contemporary of Rivera and Kahlo, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, captures everyday life vignettes in his photography. Several of his photographs belong to the Norton Simon’s permanent collection.

Sculpture Garden at MOLAA
Sculpture Garden at MOLAA | Photo by Wiebke Schuster

Museum of Latin American Art

Selected works by Manuel Alvarez Bravo are also on view at the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) in Long Beach. The museum remains the only institution nationwide that is dedicated exclusively to presenting masterpieces by modern and contemporary Latin American artists. The building, designed by famed Mexican architect Manuel Rosen, houses two exhibitions that draw from 1,300 works of art in MOLAA’s permanent collection. In addition, two galleries and one project room offer a wide range of temporary exhibitions. The Sculpture Garden features a permanent display of over 30 abstract and figurative sculptures, representing a wide range of styles and almost one artist per Latin American country.