Coreen Simpson, Flavor Flav’s Teeth (from the B-boy Series), 1988
Courtesy Bronx Museum of the Arts

At the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, an exhibition by the Bronx Museum of the Arts kicks off a two-year collaboration between the two institutions. Timed to coincide with the Biennial, the first installment of Wild Noise: Artwork from The Bronx Museum of the Arts and El Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes brings urban art from the Bronx Museum’s collection to the Havana art scene.

More than 90 works from the Bronx Museum’s permanent collection will be on view at the MNBA. Bronx-born artists like Vito Acconci, Glenn Ligon, Chakaia Booker, and Lawrence Weiner are represented, along with such artists as Rigoberto Torres, Jamel Shabazz, and Willie Cole.

Vito Acconci, Trademarks, 1970–2004
Courtesy Bronx Museum of the Arts

Although the Bronx Museum has significant holdings of contemporary Cuban art, “We decided not to include Cuban artists’ works” in the show, explains the museum’s executive director, Holly Block, “because the MNBA has a huge collection of contemporary Cuban.” Instead, she says, “We’re selecting work that relates to urban centers, to both cities, to ideas about urban life, with both collections.”

Rigoberto Torres, Daze, 1998
Courtesy Bronx Museum of the Arts

Block was in Havana working on the exhibition on December 17, when the resumption of diplomatic relations was first announced. “The mood was great,” she recalls. That evening she attended the presentation of the National Award for Visual Art to Lázaro Saavedra. “Every single person’s speech talked about the new relations. People on the street were euphoric,” she says. “They were very excited, and they were congratulating me,” she laughs, “because they knew I had spent so many years working in Cuba trying to do projects, and it really felt that, for the first time, it might be easier.”

Wild Noise will be a departure from the official Biennial program, Block says. “This Biennial is not going to be focused on traditional exhibition,” she notes. “There’ll be a lot of performances, project-driven social practice, and using other areas and neighborhoods. The Biennials have often played with those ideas, but more so as an effort this time. It won’t be the traditional unpacking art crates and hanging artwork,” she says. “In our case it will be, but the rest, no.”

Wild Noise: Artwork from The Bronx Museum of the Arts and El Museo Nacional de Bellas Artesopens May 21 at the MNBA and remains on view through August 16.