Since its creation in 1984, the Havana Biennial was conceived as an alternative to the biennial and exhibition system of the so called “First World”. Organized by the Wifredo Lam Center of Contemporary Art, the art biennial sprung from the idea to create a platform for national and international recognition for Caribbean and Latin American artists. In its early days, the event was organized as a competition where various artists competed for a prize. However, in its third edition in 1989, the biennial was reconceptualized as a space for dialogue and research of the artistic practise in the region.
Despite renowned predecessors like the São Paulo Biennial (1951), the San Juan del Grabado Latin American Biennial in Puerto Rico (1970), the Graphic Arts Biennial in Cali, Colombia (1971) or the Central American Painting Biennial (1971), the particular importance of the Havana Art Biennial lies in its declaration as openly political, intellectual, historical and cultural, as well as its affinity towards disadvantaged countries.