Programs & Services

The Piñata Exhibit

Sure to be a Smash Hit!

Piñatas in the Querétaro market, November 2015. Photograph by Tey Diana Rebolledo.

Few New Mexico traditions provide as many giggles as watching a blind-folded kid take a swing at a piñata! The giggles turn into shouts of glee when that swing connects and the other kids scramble for candy.

On June 23, 2017, The National Hispanic Cultural Center (NHCC) Art Museum opens an exciting exhibition featuring the art of piñatas and it’s sure to be a smash hit! The exhibition celebrates this intercultural tradition of fun and festivity, and explores the history of the piñata.

This exhibit will feature approximately 160 works of piñata art in the museum’s main gallery from all over North America, including California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico. Traditional and iconic forms will be showcased alongside works by contemporary piñata artists, illustrating how piñatas maintain their historical and social importance while also reflecting transnational shifts in popular and political culture.

“I’ve always thought piñatas were magical,” says Tey Marianna Nunn, director and chief curator of the NHCC Art Museum and lead curator of this project. “I felt strongly that we needed to organize an exhibit that celebrates this intercultural yet vanishing art form.”

Inspiration for this exhibit came when Nunn discovered an extraordinary vintage piñata at an antique store in Santa Fe. The work dates from the 1930s–1940s and is made with the old-fashioned and now rarely practiced technique of using a clay jar as the body. The second spark of inspiration came, Nunn says, when visiting colleagues from the National Museum of Mexican Art (NMMA) were in Albuquerque to install a traveling exhibit at the NHCC. They noticed Albuquerque still has piñata shops, while the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, where the NMMA is located, doesn’t have any. Like a bat hitting a piñata — the idea struck Nunn that New Mexico needs to take a swing at celebrating and showcasing the often overlooked cultural and artistic history of piñatas as well as the intricacies of piñata making.

The Piñata Exhibit (Sure to be a Smash Hit!) runs from June 23, 2017 through January 7, 2018. The NHCC website, nhccnm.org, will be updated regularly with information on supplemental programming.

The National Hispanic Cultural Center Art Museum is open 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Tuesday–Sunday. $6 Adults (17+), $5 for NM Residents (17+), Free for: Youth (16 & under), Seniors (60+) on Wednesday, Veterans & US Active Duty Military Personnel through Labor Day, and NM Residents on the first Sunday of each month.

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