Big names flock to Cuba’s first con­tem­po­rary art space

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

For decades, Cubans have been used to the revo­lu­tion­ary slo­gan “La lucha con­tinua,” or “the strug­gle goes on.” Now the first ever in­ter­na­tional con­tem­po­rary art space on the Com­mu­nist-ruled is­land has been dubbed “Arte Con­tinua,” or “art goes on,” re­flect­ing the changes shap­ing Ha­vana. The con­cept, orig­i­nally from Italy, brings lead­ing con­tem­po­rary artists to an is­land that has been un­der one-party rule for more than half a cen­tury. It is an off­shoot of a project called “Gal­le­ria Con­tinua” which started when Ital­ians Mario Cris­tiani, Lorenzo Fi­aschi and Mau­r­izio Rig­illo had the idea of set­ting up con­tem­po­rary art spa­ces in the most un­likely places, start­ing in 1990 in the me­dieval Ital­ian vil­lage of San Gimignano.

They scored a no­table coup when they in­stalled a gallery in China in 2005. The Ha­vana space in­cludes work from big names in­clud­ing Michelan­gelo Pis­to­letto, Daniel Buren of France, Bri­tish-In­dian artist Anish Kapoor, In­dia’s Shilpa Gupta and the late Greek-Ital­ian artist Jan­nis Kounel­lis. Pis­to­letto has al­ready put on his own per­for­mance art show in Ha­vana, when he smashed mir­rors with a gi­ant ham­mer in front of a stunned au­di­ence in the old city’s 18th cen­tury San Fran­cisco de Paula church.

Fi­aschi says he had the idea of in­stalling an art ex­hibit space in Cuba dur­ing a visit in 2014, when he stum­bled upon the ru­ined shell of a 1950s cin­ema in the old Chi­nese quar­ter of Ha­vana. Work­ing with the Cuban au­thor­i­ties, he trans­formed the space and bap­tized it “Arte con­tinua” to sig­nify that un­like its pre­de­ces­sors, this was not an ac­tual gallery but more in line with Cuba’s cul­tural cen­ters. As well as sculp­tures, the space will fea­ture mu­si­cal events, dance, theatre and pho­to­graphic and ar­chi­tec­tural ex­hibits.

“We are the first non-Cuban ex­hi­bi­tion space in Cuba,” said Luisa Ausenda, one of the or­ga­niz­ers of “Arte Con­tinua,” boast­ing of the project’s pi­o­neer­ing, non-profit role. Un­der a deal with the Com­mu­nist au­thor­i­ties, the pieces on dis­play will not be for sale. Nev­er­the­less, the con­cept has suc­ceeded in lur­ing some of the big­gest names in the con­tem­po­rary art world to Cuba, thanks in part to pri­vate spon­sor­ship and the col­lab­o­ra­tion of di­plo­matic mis­sions in Ha­vana.

Im­port and ex­port of artists

“We have a dual mis­sion,” said Ausenda. “On the one hand, we want to bring renowned in­ter­na­tional artists here, while on the other hand, we want to help the de­vel­op­ment of Cuban artists, both here on the is­land and abroad.”

With sup­port from “Arte con­tinua,” lo­cal artists Reynier Leyva Novo and Jose Ed­uardo Yaque were able to take their work to the Venice bi­en­nale and other “Gal­le­ria con­tinua” spa­ces.

The Ha­vana space also or­ga­nizes a reg­u­lar cin­ema club, guided tours and com­mu­nity work­shops that cater to lo­cal school­child­ren.

“It’s a pos­i­tive project,” said Jorge Fer­nan­dez, di­rec­tor of Cuba’s Mu­seum of Fine Arts and the Ha­vana bi­en­nale. “They bring in artists but above all, they work with the lo­cal com­mu­nity, with chil­dren. They are not here to sell pic­tures, and that is what we must pro­mote.” — AFP

Non-profit art

Arte Con­tinua’ is the first pri­vate gallery of con­tem­po­rary art based in Cuba. —AFP pho­tos

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