A utopia mutated but maintained

Today, just a few hours before the opening of the Havana Biennial, we are being flooded with great expectations and intense doubts. We are hoping to see and to experience, perhaps, in the same way we do when we visit a city for the first time and eagerly scribble a to-do list topped by a visit to the local museum.

But the Biennial is something else. The Biennial was, at its inception, the expression of a utopia, and quite possibly that has been maintained, if we take into account that it continues to be held—with more resources than before, but infinitely fewer than similar events of its kind elsewhere in the world. However, it has mutated, following the schemata of these other events and the perspectives of those who have taken over its direction and development, although its most recent editions have returned to previously charted strategies. It has had its ups and downs and has been subject to criticism, and now it is surviving in a very complex situation, where the market and a tendency to the spectacular are deforming concepts of art, curating, fair, biennial….

But the Biennial continues to spark a lot of curiosity, on and off the island. Here and there, we’re still thinking about its history, still waiting for a shift….

Regarding the Havana Biennial, what interested us most, beyond describing what we’ll be seeing in late May of 2015, was making available to our readers the perspectives of various experts. What has this event signified for Cuban art? How much has it updated, enriched, demolished, and rebuilt everyone’s outlook on the art that is produced in this world?

In the recent history of Cuban art, collecting—which evolves into or implies promotion, exhibition, and international recognition of local production—has a significant role, and we’ve attempted to focus on four prominent individuals who have carried out and are carrying out interesting work in this sense. Nina Menocal, who in 1989 began creating visibility and a presence in the market for a whole generation of artists who felt like their trajectories were incomplete on the island; Jorge Pérez, a real estate businessman with a passion for Latin American art who has subsidized and supported innumerable art projects; Zé Sacramento, a Portuguese gallery owner who has taken it upon himself to “move” Cuban art into Europe and Africa; and Ella Cisneros-Fontanals, president of CIFO (Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation), an ardent collector whom we approached with questions about her abstract art collection.

On that path to abstract work, and exploring its limits—where it begins for some, where it is manifest for others—names that arose included José Rosabal, who is currently exhibiting a piece in Havana as part of the project Detrás del Muro 2. Another is Roberto Diago, who recently has moved us with his works, with a lesson in the synthesis of language, human and universal projection; a young artist who is growing both into his work and in international prominence. Along another path, that of figuration, poetics that complete a view on what is happening today: Moisés Finalé, Rocío García, Carlos Quintana, Juan Miguel Pozo.

Art OnCuba continues proposing possible readings of a vast scene.

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