The Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Latino art collection, which was established nearly forty years ago, represents a profound commitment to building a great national collection reflecting the rich contributions of Latinos to our country from the colonial period to the present. The museum, which began actively collecting Latino art in the 1980s, now displays artworks that range from colonial religious works and woven textiles to abstract expressionist paintings and contemporary installations. Artists featured in the collection reflect the diversity of Latino communities in the United States, including artists of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, and Dominican descent, as well as other Latin American groups with deep roots in the United States. The museum has acquired paintings and sculptures by modern and contemporary artists such as ADÁL, Olga Albizu, María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Melesio “Mel” Casas, Teresita Fernández, Carmen Herrera, Luis Jiménez, Vik Muniz, Raphael Montañez Ortiz, Freddy Rodríguez, Rafael Soriano, and Patssi Valdez.
From 2000-2002, the museum toured Arte Latino: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, sixty-six rarely lent paintings, sculptures, and photographs to seven U.S. cities. Artworks ranged from 18th-century colonial Puerto Rico works by José Campeche and The Caban Group to contemporary works by Carlos Alfonzo, Carmen Lomas Garza, Ana Mendieta, Amalia Mesa-Bains, and Pepón Osorio. The 2013 exhibition Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art is the culmination of a major collecting initiative, still underway at the museum, to build a significant collection of Latino art in the nation's capital.