10th HAVANA BIENNIAL MOMENTS
Pictures at an Exhibition
Nelson Herrera Ysla has been a key organizer of the Biennial since it began 25 years ago. When we ran into him during the Cabaña inauguration festivities, he seemed genuinely surprised, like the host of a successful party who hadn’t expected anyone to show up. He talked about the 10th Biennial’s theme ("Integration and Resistance in the Global Era") and convincingly defended the Havana Biennial’s geopolitical emphasis — unique among the world’s biennial art fairs — saying, "We Cubans are a political people, that’s not going to change."
Among the surprises at the 10th Havana Biennial were Cuban artist Roberto Fabelo’s giant, human-faced cockroaches clinging to the exterior of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. But an even bigger surprise lay within the museum itself. American artists represented by galleries from New York’s Chelsea district were in town presenting "Chelsea Visits Havana" — Havana’s first major show of artwork from the United States in five decades.
Even so, the real draw of the 10th Biennial was the local talent. Cuban artists didn’t disappoint the curators, gallery-owners and private collectors visiting from other countries. Yoan Capote, a young sculptor and painter, greeted them with a slide show in his Vedado "bunker," and wound up signing a deal with a New York gallery before the Biennial was over. Liset Castillo built a plastic city which she called Archaeology of Power, and told us why she wasn’t worried about the world economic crisis ("this is an interesting moment for art"). René Francisco Rodriguez, with his Interpret show at the Villa Manuela Gallery, demonstrated why he’s one of the world’s most interesting artists working with socially progressive subject matter.
The Havana Biennial wouldn’t be what it is without an element of surprise, so we won’t make any predictions for the next one.
See you in 2011.