The King and Queen of Spain stand in front of the new exhibition highlighting 500 years of Spanish paintings.
King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain stand in front of the new San Antonio Museum of Art exhibition highlighting 500 years of Spanish painting. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

The three-day San Antonio visit of King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain concluded Monday with a royal viewing of a new exhibition of Spanish art and a speech by the King to a group of Hispanic business and education leaders.

On Monday morning, San Antonio Museum of Art Director Katie Luber and Mayor Ron Nirenberg were on hand to welcome the royal couple to the museum’s grand entrance hall, which was filled with the scent of fresh flowers from bouquets featuring large white orchids.

Chief Curator William Keyse Rudolph led the pair through Spain: 500 Years of Spanish Painting from the Museums of Madrid, which traces five centuries of Spanish painting, with many works traveling to the United States for the first time. The exhibition was developed for the Tricentennial year, and serves as a bookend to the earlier San Antonio 1718: Art From Viceregal Mexico, which catalogued art of the colonial Spanish era.

Together, the complementary exhibitions describe the complexity of culture in San Antonio, Luber said as she prepared to greet the King and Queen.

The King and Queen of Spain walk with San Antonio Museum of Art Director Katie Luber.
King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain walk with Katie Luber, director of the San Antonio Museum of Art. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

The setting of Spanish masterworks lent historical ambience to the Royals’ visit, with centuries of cultural, economic, and political interchange between Spain and San Antonio, once a northern outpost of the Spanish colonial empire.

“It’s very complicated and very interrelated,” Luber said of the centuries-long relationship between Texas and Spain. “I think that we can learn so much about it through looking at art,” she said.

The wealth that once flowed mostly from the New World to the dynasties of Old World Europe is visible in many painting of Spanish nobles, as are the cultural similarities that remain present in Latino culture.

At a Hyatt Regency Hotel luncheon held by the Fundación Carolina for its sixth convention of Lideres Hispanos de los Estados Unidos, an annual gathering of young Hispanic business and education leaders, King Felipe spoke of a newer, more equitable intercambio between countries.

“The purpose of these celebrations are to evoke the legacy of our cultural heritage, highlight the fraternal thread that unites us, and highlight the example of plurality and coexistence which this city has become,” he told the group, according to a translation of his speech provided by City officials.  

Verónica Cool traveled to the convention from her home in Maryland, where she runs Cool and Associates, a management consulting firm focused on bridging Hispanic and other cultures.

“The fact that the city was founded 300 years ago, with such a strong Latino influence, was the reason we chose SA for the meeting,” she said of Lideres Hispanos members.

Cool said that with nearly 60 million Hispanics in the U.S., and 22 Latino countries, she appreciates the King’s support on making cultural and economic engagement “a little more strategic.”

The first United States destination for the King and Queen was New Orleans, also celebrating its Tricentennial year. After San Antonio, the royal couple’s next stop is Washington, D.C., for a visit with President Donald Trump.

As the appointed defender of the Spanish constitution, and Commander in Chief of the nation’s armies, King Felipe is deeply involved in the nation’s policy matters and in international politics. To close his speech, he offered what might be considered an advance message on democratic values ahead of his Washington visit:

“The language of freedom has a recognizable Ibero-American accent,” he said. “Latin America is one of the regions with the most democracies, which creates a large space that has as its guide in the defense of fundamental rights, respect for the law and social cohesion.”

Senior Reporter Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with...