What an interesting year.

In 2018, Cuban artists continued to expand their presence internationally, with the acclaimed Belkis Ayón retrospective continuing its US tour, the Ana Mendieta film exhibition traveling to Berlin and Paris, and Tania Bruguera mounting exhibitions at MoMA and Tate Modern, London.

The Artes de Cuba festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, made headlines in the US capital, introducing American audiences to Cuban art and culture.

On the island, the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes presented major exhibitions by José Manuel Fors, Leandro Soto, Pedro Martínez, Tonel, and other artists—and in the fall, an ambitious retrospective of Cuban photography. After last year’s hurricanes, the postponed Havana Biennial inspired the artist-led 00Bienal, and Havana galleries continued to present Cuban artists at international art fairs.

Cuban Art News covered these topics. But none of them made this year’s Top 5 stories.

Instead, readers gravitated to stories of preservation and consolidation: new approaches to archiving, new directions for artists, and positive art market news.

Here are our top 5 stories for 2018, followed by quick links to the runners-up.

NOTE: Regular readers may have noticed that Cuban Art News has published less frequently this month. We are in the process of upgrading our website system, and over the coming weeks, our publication schedule might be a little irregular. For frequent updates, check the Cuban Art News Facebook page.

Elizabeth Cerejido in the conservation lab of the University of Miami Libraries with a few of the artist books in the CHC collection
Photo: Rosa Lowinger for Cuban Art News

1.  The Women Behind the Cuban Archives

November 21, 2018

“This collection is about more than just Cuba; it’s also about Miami, and about South Florida,” Elizabeth Cerejido told Cuban Art News interviewer Rosa Lowinger. Cerejido, recently appointed chair of the Cuban Heritage Collection (CHC) at the University of Miami.

Tucked into an upstairs corner of the University of Miami Library, the CHC is the largest compendium of materials on Cuban studies outside Cuba. Covering both Cuba and the Cuban diaspora, the CHC’s holdings include books, manuscripts, letters, periodicals, archival materials, art objects, and rare historical documents. “There really is no other institutional space like it here,” Cerejido said.

Works in “Fragmento de un paisaje / Fragment of a Landscape,” 2017, an installation by Manuel Mendive in “Nature, Spirit, Body” at the Bronx Museum
Photo: Cuban Art News

2.  Manuel Mendive Hits New York

August 1, 2018

This year marked Mendive’s first solo exhibition at a New York museum, Nature, Spirit, and Body, which opened this summer at the Bronx Museum of the Arts. At the museum, the show’s curator Christine Licata took readers on a walk-through of the exhibition, and the work of the artist she called “the historian for the lion.”

The show included two suites of paintings and sculptures that premiered earlier in the year in the Artes de Cuba festival at the Kennedy Center.

Belkis Ayón, “Untitled (Sikan with White Tips), 1993
Courtesy Phillips

3.  Breaking News: Record Price for Belkis Ayón at Phillips

September 26, 2018

As her acclaimed retrospective continued to tour the US and a belated New York Times obituary introduced her to new audiences, master printmaker Belkis Ayón (1967–1999) set a world record at auction for her collograph Untitled (Sikán with White Tips).

José Bedia, “La isla esperando una señal (The Island Waits for a Signal),” 2002, one of the works in the Phillips “New Now” sale
Courtesy Phillips

4.  Phillips “New Now” Auction Features Top Contemporary Cuban Art

September 19, 2018

Ahead of the fall contemporary art auction at Phillips, Cuban Art News spoke to Kaeli Deane, head of Latin American Art, for her take on the current market for contemporary Cuban art.

“It is interesting to see contemporary Cuban art being more widely collected internationally,” Deane said in the interview. “Cuba has long been seen as a mysterious and inaccessible place, but the growing market for Cuban art has helped to expand public knowledge about the country.”

A view of the Capitolio in Havana, from “The Man Who Saved Havana” in Smithsonian magazine
Photo: Nestór Martí, courtesy Smithsonian magazine

5.  The Man Who Saved Havana (and Other Stories)

June 28, 2018

From an essay on Cuban art collecting to a Billboard take on el paquete and the island’s music industry, the summer season brought in-depth, thought-provoking coverage of Cuban art and culture.

Our round-up of must-read stories (and one video) led off with a Smithsonian magazine profile of Dr. Eusebio Leal Spengler, the Historian of Havana. “Perhaps only on this island obsessed with its operatic past could a historian become a celebrity on a par with a Clooney or DiCaprio,” the magazine wrote.


In numerical order, the next most popular stories were…

Los Carpinteros, “Cosmos,” 2004
Courtesy The Farber Collection

6.  Breaking News: The Art Group Los Carpinteros is Moving On

August 8, 2018

María Eugenia Haya, from the series Escuelas al campo, 1976–78
Courtesy Catálogo de Fotógrafas Cubanas

7.  SNAP… CLICK… POST. Women Photographers of Cuba Online

September 12, 2018

Tomás Esson, “Oráculo II,” 2017
Courtesy Fredric Snitzer Gallery

8.  Tomás Esson Wins CINTAS Award, Manuel Mendive Leaving the Bronx, Yoan Capote Profiled in Vanity Fair

October 24, 2018

An aerial view of the National Art Schools
Courtesy John Loomis and ArchDaily

9.  Restoring Cuba’s National Art Schools – New Support from the Getty

October 17, 2018

Carlos Alfonzo, Untitled, 1987.
Courtesy of The Farber Collection

10.  Screaming Heads and Still Lifes: The Late Art of Carlos Alfonzo

July 11, 2018

Wishing all our readers, friends, and colleagues a happy and productive 2019.