Cuban Art to Eat & Take Out

/ 31 August, 2015

(…) Since its early editions, but especially since 1986, the Havana Biennial organizers understood the enormous proportions of the Cuban artistic production and the importance of showing it to the audience, beyond the balance the event proposed with the art of other countries. Thus they devised a system of collateral exhibitions in the modest and incipient network of city galleries, which also included the art schools and therefore involved most of their executives and many other independent experts. (…) As time went by, the “collaterals” have achieved increasing importance within the global scheme of exhibitions which make up, under everyone’s eyes, the Havana Biennial, to the point that today they struggle to occupy central spaces. Evidence of this are the projects Zona Franca (Free Zone), in El Morro Castle and La Cabaña Fortress, and Detrás del Muro (Behind the Wall), along more than a kilometer of the famous Havana seafront, as well as the four personal exhibitions by Cuban artists that the National Museum of Fine Arts welcomes. (…)

The challenge is still on. How to offer the most valuable, risky and deep of our visual expressions without making concessions to entertainment, collecting, market, populism and cultural activism, to easy institutional practices, to the artists themselves in their eagerness for visibility and legitimation at all costs? From one year to the next, the number of artists and exhibition spaces increases. It seems the time has come of setting out a national event which would take on these indicators in their contents and form, which would take on these growing figures, which may allow fair and measured assessments, which may indicate appropriate paths and ways for the circulation and promotion of the works without curatorial pushing and shoving nor marathon temporality. And then it also seems that the time has come to organize something similar to an art fair in Cuba. With no prejudices, no fear and enough intellectual and organizational capacity. Half tones only create confusion and a feeling of unease.

Nelson Herrera Ysla

Nelson Herrera Ysla

Art critic, curator, poet. He is co-founder of the Wifredo Lam Contemporary Art Center and of the Havana Biennial, an event he led from 1999 to 2001, and where he is currently curator. He has lectured in numerous countries and published numerous critical texts in specialized publications of Cuba and abroad. General Curator of the XVI Paiz Biennial of Guatemala, 2008. Essay Jury of the Casa de las Américas Prize, 2005, and international art events in Latin America. National Award for Arts Criticism Guy Pérez Cisneros, 2007, and National Prize for Curators 2013, both in Cuba.

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