The Dancer on the Roof and the Artist in the Garden

/ 8 March, 2014

Art in Havana at the Beginning of the 21st Century


A key feature of today’s Cuban art is the forging of ties between a growing number of artists and the markets, several markets in fact. (…) The number and importance of collections entirely or partially focused on Cuban artistic production have increased.1 The commercial activity in Havana’s galleries and studios likewise shows signs of very early steps toward an incipient revival of a national breed of art collectors.

Keeping an eye on commercial possibilities may become an encouraging factor for the inclusion of works dealing with typical and stereotypical aspects of daily Cuban life. (…) This partly explains the more or less fleeting popularity of certain iconographies so often repeated that they became fashionable in the eighties and continue to be up to the present: the map of Cuba, the national flag, the raft, the wall, the airplane, and so on. (…) A variety of perspectives and opinions should always be included; if we are to understand that many of these artists and their creations are part of something complex, of a reality that is nourished simultaneously by information and local references and by sources to be found much further away, beyond Cuba’s borders.

At this point, it should be remembered that at least at the onset of modern tradition, during the early decades of the 20th century, Cuban art has been able to balance its priorities, while fluctuating between attraction to vernacular sources and fascination with the events outside its borders. This all implies that the current experiences of artists in Havana are subject to the rise in importance and growing influence of the phenomenon known as “glocal” and its consequences, above all with the so- called “glocalization” of worldwide culture.2 (…) Looking at the artistic “now” in Cuba, there are signs of ongoing, intense negotiations, clearly with varying results. Together with works in which the balance we mentioned crystallizes with insight and ease, other works adopting recognizable, even superficial, forms of integration into common internationalism are appearing. (…) The globalized situation in which Cuban art participates today in some measure is characterized by the correspondence between the movements of capital and the opening of markets in the general economy, and the parallel movement of artists and works across the borders of that same world that capital brings together, connects and makes ever more interdependent.3


  1. The exhibition Kuba o.k. (Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Germany, 1990) sparked the interest of German collectors Peter and Irene Ludwig in Cuban art. That led to their purchase of most of the works in the Düsseldorf show, which were then placed in the new Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst in Aachen, Germany. In 2001, American collectors Howard and Patricia Farber started collecting Cuban art from the eighties forward. Donald and Shelly Rubin, American collectors based in New York, have assembled an equally outstanding collection of recent Cuban art.
  2. De Duve, Thierry. “The Glocal and the Singuniversal. Reflections on Art and Culture in the Global World”. In: Third Text, November, 2007, p. 682.
  3. Stallabrass, Julian. Art Incorporated: The Story of Contemporary Art. Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 4-10.


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