As part of the promotional campaign for the 500th anniversary of the city of Havana, the 13th Havana Biennial – as a product of international cultural tourism – offers visitors an optimistic experience: a celebratory atmosphere marked by an influx of new ideas, the circulation of people from abroad and a feeling of well-being in a public space “free of conflicts”.
Visitors (curators, critics and collectors) explore the native landscape and seek direct contact with local Cuban artistic production. Meanwhile, the creators assist in the preparation and installation of works, interventions in abandoned buildings, and festive meetings under institutional protection. As Havana celebrates its 500th foundation anniversary, the city maintains the international appeal generated by its political climate, the “spontaneity of the people” and the “richness of its landscapes”. The city is transformed for tourism with the construction of new buildings – all in the midst of a generalized social decline.
By the end of 2017, the devastating effects of Hurricane Irma caused the cancellation of the 12th Havana Biennial, originally scheduled for the final quarter of 2018. The decision to postpone the Biennial provoked considerable reactions within the Cuban art scene. Artist Luis Manuel Otero and art historian Yanelys Núñez organized an alternative biennial, the #00Bienal de La Habana whose execution – against the official resolution – was carried out from independent spaces such as artist studios and houses. The #00 Biennial of Havana kept the spirit of the Biennial alive during a time of crisis and, alongside exhibitions such as the Cuban Arts Festival: From The Island to the World, in Washington D.C. and Ola Cuba, in Lille, France, sustained the discussion of – and with it the international interest in – Cuban art.