Yoan Capote, Open Mind/Mente abierta, 2008
Courtesy The Farber Collection

As the new year moves into February, we at Cuban Art News think it’s an interesting moment to look ahead to the rest of 2013 and what it might hold for Cuban art, both on the island and elsewhere. With that in mind, we assembled an email roundtable of experts to weigh in on what they foresee, what they’re concerned about, and what they’re looking forward to.

The result is a three-part series: two conversations and a quick one-to-one. Our contributors are: Marysol Nieves, vice president and specialist in Latin American Art at Christie’s, New York; Margarita González Lorente, deputy director of the Wifredo Lam Center, Havana, organizers of the Havana Biennial: Robert Borlenghi, president of Pan American Art Projects, Miami; Corina Matamoros, curator of contemporary Cuban art at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana; Elvis Fuentes, art historian and curator of Caribbean: Crossroads of the World, presented at three New York museums in 2012; and Howard Farber, collector of contemporary Cuban art and co-founder of The Farber Foundation, the sponsoring organization for Cuban Art News.

In general, what do you see coming up for Cuban art in 2013?

Marysol Nieves, vice president and specialist in Latin American Art, Christie’s, New York:

I think that, while Cuban vanguard art will always be a staple of the Latin American art auctions, it’s very exciting to see the growing interest in works by artists from the 1950s and ’60s who shifted from figuration and explored aspects of abstraction. Among them are Carmen Herrera, Loló Soldevilla, and Sandú Darié, as well as Mario Carreño, who in the 1940s was a leading member of the Vanguardia but later also experimented with biomorphic and geometric abstraction.

Robert Borlenghi, president, Pan American Art Projects
Photo by Fernanda Torcida

Robert Borlenghi, president, Pan American Art Projects, Miami:

The trend that I expect to strengthen is that of conceptual art. Important names in this category are Tania Bruguera, José Toirac, Ricardo Brey, Yoan Capote, and Alexandre Arrechea. I feel they will obtain the greatest international recognition.

A collecting trend that is likely to continue in 2013 (although I do not expect it to continue long thereafter) revolves around the geometric movement in Latin American art. Important works by Sandú Darié and Loló Soldevilla will still be sought after, while other, secondary members of the movement (Salvador Corratgé, Pedro de Oraá) will be “rediscovered.”

As for an emerging trend, I think there may be a return to true painting. There are a few young artists who are “painters;” and then there is Ernesto Estévez, the best of the landscape artists on the island, who continues down his road, takes two to three months for each painting, and is currently preparing for me a virtuoso series of stunning night landscapes.

Margarita González Lorente, deputy director, Wifredo Lam Center, Havana:

Right now, Cuban art on the island and abroad is very much in tune with the current world situation. We continue developing an active art, which is also problematic and consistent with the historical moment. I think there are a lot of options for everyone: conceptual art, abstract, figurative. In short, a wide range of work and project proposals, as it was some years ago.

As for new trends, I haven’t seen anything really new to this point. I see many artists working in what’s been called new media, although they’re not so new: video, films, public-interaction projects, online networks, computing, and technology.

Howard Farber, collector of contemporary Cuban art and co-founder of The Farber Foundation

Howard Farber, collector of contemporary Cuban art and co-founder of The Farber Foundation, sponsoring organization for Cuban Art News:

The biggest trend that I foresee in 2013 is awareness, which every collecting niche needs for success. The Cuban art market has been growing at a a slow and steady pace, and I think that’s the best way to develop a long-lasting, serious market. One thing I’d like to see is for the major auction houses to do client seminars on Cuban contemporary art. That would help immensely to create more awareness.

Elvis Fuentes, art historian and curator:

I think the biggest event is non-artistic. The new immigration policies will definitely have a huge impact on the Cuban art community. Cuba still attracts people throughout the world, and is fashionable as a rara avis of the Cold War period. In some way we have been stuck in the 20th century. The possibility of Cuban artists traveling on their own will increase Cuban art visibility exponentially.

Also, we will see different responses from countries. For instance, Ecuador just blocked Cubans from migrating there. In the last decades, it has received a constant flux of artists and art professionals that has had a great impact on the Ecuadorian art scene. That will probably change now. We will have to wait and see how countries like Mexico and Canada will manage the flux of Cubans trying to migrate there to cross the border into the US. Until now they have both been quite open to Cuban artists doing projects and developing their careers there, but how will they distinguish between an artist going to do a project and ordinary people trying to migrate to the US?

How would you describe the position of Cuban art in the international art market?

Marysol Nieves, Christie’s:

The “Cuban art market” is a rather broad term, as it encompasses everything from modern to the present. That said, I think there are a number of Cuban artists who have a wonderful international market, such as Wifredo Lam, who is a major figure in the development of modern art and whose career developed in large measure outside of Cuba.

José Bedia, Sueño de la infancia (Youthful Dream), 1983
Courtesy The Farber Collection

More recently, artists from the 1980s generation onward have made important contributions in the international contemporary arena, such as José Bedia, Tomás Sánchez, Kcho, Carlos Garaicoa, Los Carpinteros, Tania Bruguera, etc. I don’t necessarily see the relationship between the US and Cuba as a hindrance for the Cuban art market. I think the biggest challenge for things like works from the vanguard period are issues of authenticity.


Robert Borlenghi, Pan American Art Projects:

Cuban art has been at a disadvantage for over 50 years because of the country’s (and its artists’) isolation. The art that developed, within the constraints of what was allowed by the regime in power, was “provincial.” It revolved around a few “local” themes: the indigenous religious (Santería) influence; political commentary, especially during the “special period;” specific issues of migration in an insular context; and the Cuban landscape.

Contemporary Cuban art was met with a general acceptance because of the novelty and freshness of these topics in the context of international art. Now these themes have become somewhat tired, and the future of contemporary Cuban art hinges on the ability of artists to offer fresh views on these themes, or new themes with a more universal appeal. I bring as an example of successful evolution the work of Abel Barroso, who has reinterpreted migration in terms of a world-wide tension between the “haves” of the first world and the “have-nots” of the third world. Roberto Diago Jr.’s latest abstract work is also trying to find a more general imagery.

Corina Matamoros, curator of contemporary Cuban art, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana:

I don’t have ways of accessing international information that would permit objective opinions on this point—I see only scattered facts, fragments, so my impressions are vague. Many top artists, most of whom I work with, are supported by foreign galleries that represent their exhibitions and projects. This art is often not seen in Cuba, not even in catalogues. Other artists try to break into less high-profile spaces—commercial galleries and art events of all kinds—and we sometimes have no idea of the impact of their activities.

Elvis Fuentes, art historian and curator:

Cuba has a good position. But there is no question that other areas of Latin America are now gaining in visibility. The good news is that interest in the region is also growing, especially in the US.

Next week: Artists, the Art Market, and Upcoming Events.