Photo: Cuban Art News

A research expedition into the biodiversity of eastern Cuba may have been the starting point for !Cuba!But art was not left behind.

The exhibition opened late last month at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH).

As one of the world’s most popular museums, AMNH draws some 5 million visitors per year, including classroom groups and families with children.

The exhibition’s organizers understood that, in addition to the island’s remarkable biodiversity, !Cuba!would be introducing many visitors to the island itself.

The idea was to give “a really robust understanding of Cuba from both a natural history perspective and a cultural perspective,” said Dr. Christopher Raxworthy, curator-in-charge of the museum’s department of herpetology, in a conversation earlier this year.

Dr. Raxworthy co-curated ¡Cuba! with Dr. Ana Luz Porzecanski, director of the museum’s center for biodiversity and conservation.

The opening gallery of !Cuba! introduces a variety of Cubans on the island and abroad.
Photo: Cuban Art News

The exhibition opens with a gallery of life-sized photo portraits depicting Cubans on the island and abroad, along with short comments in English and Spanish.


—    Related: “Opening Today! ¡Cuba! in NYC»   —


¡Cuba! is the first AMNH exhibition to be fully bilingual.

Graphic designer Michele Miyares Hollands, one of the Cubans in the exhibition.
Photo: Cuban Art News

Among the people featured in this gallery is the Havana graphic designer Michele Miyares Hollands, who helped to organize the walls of posters on display in the exhibition.

A view of the poster display organized by graphic designer Michele Miyares Hollands
Photo: Cuban Art News

That gallery also houses an interactive touch-screen display presenting an array of Cuban artists.

A work by Alfredo Sosabravo on view in the exhibition’s art gallery
Photo: Cuban Art News

Selecting an artist brings up information on the screen as well as artworks projected on the facing wall.

A work by Los Carpinteros on view in the exhibition’s art gallery
Photo: Cuban Art News

Featured artists include Roberto Fabelo, Abel Barroso, Glenda León, and Carlos Garaicoa.

The interactive program provides basic information on each artist, and a choice of artworks to view.
Photo: Cuban Art News

Also included: Tomás Sánchez, Manuel Mendive, María Elena González, and María Magdalena Campos-Pons, among others.

María Magdalena Campos-Pons is among the artists included in the viewing program.
Photo: Cuban Art News

The art gallery is one in a series of spaces leading off the exhibition’s central spine,  a boulevard that evokes a street in Havana.

On the cultural side, various displays explore such themes as urban agriculture, private enterprise (with a bici-taxi as one example), and Cuban radio broadcasts.

A gallery off the boulevard introduces visitors to “La religion de las orichas,” with exhibits that include a re-created altar, and insights into other religious practices on the island.

Partial view of an altar in the gallery focusing on the Orisha religion.
Photo: Cuban Art News

On the other side of the boulevard, a series of galleries explore the island’s natural history. Exhibits focus on Zapata wetlands, Cuba’s remarkable caves and coral reefs, and the plant and animal life of the Parque Nacional Alejandro de Humboldt—the largest natural preserve in the Caribbean.

A view of the re-created coral reef environment in Cuban waters.
Photo: Cuban Art News

For more about ¡Cuba!, see today’s post on the Cuban Art News Facebook page.

¡Cuba! is on view at the American Museum of Natural History through August 13.