Havana-Cultura - Fiesta Havana Cultura: Faith in the Party


Pictures at an Exhibition

Ask 10 different people about the Havana Biennial and you get 10 different answers, but that’s part of the fun. The Havana Biennial is a kaleidoscope, revealing infinite possibilities every way you look at it, and this was especially true of the 10th edition. From the end of March until the end of April, the Cabaña fortress overlooking Havana was a hive of art activity, with exhibitions and live performances happening everywhere you looked. The Cabaña and the nearby Morro complex were where the official Biennial exhibits were installed, but that was just one side of the story. All over Havana and in various parts of the rest of Cuba dozens of exhibitions took place — as if the whole island was bursting with artistic energy that the Biennial could barely contain. At one point, even the sky over the Cuban capital became an exhibition space, for Wilfredo Prieto’s Una Luz a lo Lejos (A Star in the Sky).

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.
You didn’t have to go to a museum or art gallery to enjoy the Havana Biennial. The art came out in the street and followed you. Cuban artist Duvier del Dago installed his Caja Negra (Black Box) exhibition in a former military shooting range. José Emilio Fuentes Fonseca (JEFF) transported his herd of metal elephants all around the city. Alexis Leyva Machado (K’cho) built a carousel of wooden boats in the Plaza San Francisco de Asís. And Manuel Mendive put on a spectacular, Santería-fueled street performance, with a procession that began in the Concepción Arenal art center and finished in front of Havana’s National Theatre.

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.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
buen dìa, tengo una pregunta, ya està abierta la convocatoria a la !! Bienal del 2011, Me podrìan enviar informaciòn si la itenen por favor,, gracias, suerte, Xavier
Que tal! ¿Para cuando esta programado el proximo Bienal de La Habana?
Havana Cultura
Hola Garmendia, La proxima Bienal de La Habana esta programada en marzo de 2012. En cuanto tenemos mas informacion, la ponemos en el sitio. Saludos!
Show all comments
Add a comment
Yoan Capote & Liset Castillo
Kcho & Manuel Mendive
Fiesta Havana Cultura
Mayito - Liudmila & Nelson
René Francisco & Alexander Beatón
Duvier del Dago & JEFF
Pictures at an Exhibition