Cuba?… Present!

/ 12 December, 2018

The 2018 Miami Art Basel Expo located at the Miami Beach Convention Center delivered this year 268 different galleries with a multitude of different works by artists over a space of 500,000 ft.². For those who haven’t visited Art Basel and are already impressed by the sheer size and amount of galleries imagen the effect of being overwhelmed by so much space and exhibits enhanced by the physical experience of a tight grid like formation that holds these hundreds of galleries together to make a sort of maze of art. In it one can find works of art spanning over the last hundred years. Picasso’s cubist faces having a staring contest with Sally Mann’s kids or a Calder dancing in the wind to the light of a Dan Flavian neon light sculpture. This experience has its advantages and disadvantages. To the low-budget art student or art enthusiast who hasn’t quite had the chance to travel as much as they would like to in order to see works by master artists both contemporary and modern alike this sort of event that brings them from around the world can be fantastic. Not to mention the many people whom perhaps haven’t had the courage or interest in going to a single gallery can now have the experience of the quote on quote high art without the feeling of being out of place seeing as fairs can easily make one dissolve into the crowd without the pressures of being observed or unwelcome. Although there is one notable disadvantage of these sorts of events, and it is that in the very nature of having so many different works in order to sell and representing the diversity of artists in each gallery, the individual work and how it was meant to be viewed or understood in a context by artists can be lost and usually is. This year Miami and its Cuban citizens can be proud to have been represented so well in this year’s Art Basel, not only because there was a significant presence of Cuban artists, but they have in some cases managed to overcome the very disadvantages of having work showcased in art fairs such as this.

The first reason for such an upturn in Cuban artists this year is Art Basel acceptance of a new Miami gallery to the ranks of the fair, this gallery being the David Castillo Gallery. Logically, being a Miami Gallery, it carries works of Cuban and other Latin artists due to the density of Cubans and Latins in Miami. Artists like Glexis Novoa and Belkis Ayón could be observed in his booth at Art Basel along with several other Latin creators. This makes now two Miami galleries that are part of the event. The other one, being the long-time participant, is Fredrick Snitzer gallery. It’s in this particular space that one can enjoy the work of Cuban artist Alexandre Arrechea and his work conquering the dilemma of being in a fair surrounded by so much other work. The artist achieved this by making part of the booth for into an installation of his most recent work, a series by the name of “Redo”. The installation included a mural painted on one of two walls that had been partially covered by four of the six massive watercolor paintings of organic black and white brushstrokes like patterns only to be reflected on the floor by a sculpture floor piece that gave physical shape to the same patterns in black-and-white. Due to the size and shape of this presentation viewers could feel as if they were surrounded by one coherent work.

Although having a new Miami Gallery helped in increasing the presence of Cuban artists in Art Basel, this wasn’t the sole reason for that. There were several other galleries not from Miami whom included amongst their ranks Cuban artists. Galleries such as Peter kilchmann gallery from Zürich with works by Dagoberto Rodríguez, and the Barbara Thumm gallery from Berlin with works by Diango Hernández. Two galleries that represent a diverse group of artists that in some cases aren’t even artists living and working where the galleries are located. All in all, it was the combination of increase in Cuban artists at the fair and how well were they and their works received, which was exemplified by having Cuban artists invited to have several talks at Art Basel, like in the case of the artist Alexandre Arrechea. One can only hope that such quality work and presence can be maintained but with the increase growth of Miami and its artworld the Cuban community won’t have much to worry about in the following years.

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