The activation of different galleries in Havana, the establishment of independent studios and the sustained presence at the most significant international art fairs and biennials constitute some of the contributing factors to the increased participation of Cuban art on the commercial market.
During 2017, more than twenty exhibitions positioned Cuban art practice in other contexts. Among them, a retrospective travelling exhibition of Wifredo Lam and Belkis Ayón at the Tate Modern and the Museo del Barrio respectively stood out; the three shows Cuba Is, HOPE and The Cuban Matrix in the exhibition program Pacific Standard Time: La/La, as well as Cuba – Tatuare la storia, curated by Diego Sileo and Giacomo Zaza at the Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea (PAC) in Milan, Italy. Also, in 2017 the participation of María Magdalena Campos in the 14th Documenta stood out as did Carlos Martiel at the Venice Biennale. In February 2018, Cuban artist Tania Bruguera inaugurated the personal exhibition Untitled (Havana, 2000), at the MoMA in New York, and May 2018 will see the opening of the exhibition Talking to Power at the MUAC (University Museum for Contemporary Art) in Mexico City.
Without a doubt, something is happening. Something that many sum up strikingly as a “boom”. However, to speak of a “boom” in Cuban art –as it usually happens– based on the acute interest in the island as a result of the relaxation of the diplomatic relations between Cuba and the US in 2014, the death of Fidel Castro in 2016 and the subsequent contraction of relations following after the measures implemented by President Donald Trump in 2017, threatens to simplify the conditioning factors that define Cuban symbolic and artistic production.
Thus, it is necessary to examine this phenomenon not only from the perspective of Cuban-American tensions, but also and in all its complexity: from the increased participation of the Latino and Chicano community in the United States, the vindication of a subjective-activist curatorship, visits abroad of Cuban artists and their return to the island, the growing interest of prestigious galleries for artistic creation in Cuba and, above all, the development of a collecting focused on the institutionalization of art and its social availability.
Aldeide Delgado is an independent historian and curator. She has been awarded with the Investigative Grant and Production of Critic Essay 2017 issued by Teor/ethics. Her interests include gender, racial identity, photography and abstraction in the visual arts. She has been a speaker at the California Institute of Arts, the Spanish Cultural Center Miami, the University of Havana, Casa de las Américas, the National Library of Cuba and the 12th Havana Biennial. Se studied art history at the University of Havana (2011-2016). Her articles have been published in Art OnCuba, Cuban Art News, Arte Al Límite and Artishock. She is a current collaborator of Artishock in Miami.
Translated from Spanish by Zarifa Mohamad Petersen