Public Archeology

/ 19 July, 2014

Although the history of public art is long,1 explicit references on the relationship between the artist and his context date from the 1976 manifesto, entitled Art as Contextual Art, by Jan Świdziński, where the contact of creators with the surrounding reality is defined. As a consequence of his increasing desire to intervene in the environment with his proposals, he was capable of yielding his leading role and shaking off his rather bohemian and individualistic nature.

These interests developed in Cuba during the fifties. (…)The efforts retaken by the Public Works Ministry in 1959 became urban development when receiving the touch of artists who had learned to work in interdisciplinary groups, “without whom, but rather what, being of importance.” Among that appropriation of spaces agreed with the State, a variant acknowledging the ideological strength of these practices, connected with the man in the street as a disseminating vehicle of political ideas, emerged.2 Following this concept, in 1963 the Cuba Pavilion was built in La Rampa. It was designed to open political-cultural contents on its surroundings, claiming the attention of the passers-by who enjoyed the winking of spectacular atmospheres and large scale elements interacting with the outside.

(…) In Cuba, the breaking-off was marked by Volumen I exhibition, part of an opening impulse, born in official institutions and with cultural officials.6 They were all committed to cool the visual arts environment, admit foreign vanguard trends and stimulate art criticism, a nevertheless decisive clash because of unleashing a progressive eagerness for permissiveness and freedoms which would later crystallize in social criticism (…)

These are only some brushstrokes introducing a rather forgotten angle in the history of Cuban art in the eighties. It would be a really interesting exercise to continue it, also because of its contrast with the present, where money and individualism master art in a world level.


  1. Platforms and stages for political meetings, neon and painted super graphs.
  2. Among others, the Fondo Cubano de Bienes Culturales (FCBC – Cuban Fund of Cultural Assets), the Direccion Nacional de Artes Plásticas y Diseño (National Direction of Plastic Arts and Design) and the Wifredo Lam Center, represented by vice minister Marcia Leiseca, Nisia Aguero, Beatriz Aulet, Llilian Llanes, José Veigas, Gerardo Mosquera, Flavio Garciandía…



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