Havana Biennial, gateway to visual arts in Cuba
By Claudia Maden, Photos: Ferval
The certainty of a successful Preamble with a large international reach marks the future of the Havana Biennial, whose 14th edition is well underway in Cuba.
The current version of the now traditional art festival is being held virtually and on site in three stages or “experiences”: Preamble (Nov. 12-Dec. 5), Havana Biennial (Dec. 6-March 24) and Return to the Future (March 25-April 30).
With its second experience, the event prioritizes the work of new and established artists from the island, who exhibit their work in a variety of group shows such as Farmacia: volver a la tierra, Imaginarios visuales femeninos, Disonancias, Islas and A fin de cuentas.
Such special projects were conceived by the organizing committee in line with the vision of the event, which responds to the slogan “Future and Contemporaneity” and, according to Norma Rodríguez, president of the National Council of Plastic Arts, has fostered the exchange between specialists and creators, Cuban as well as foreign.
As a curatorial megaproject, the Biennial not only aims to contribute to a better understanding of today’s problems based on a type of artistic space that often does not prevail in the major circuits, but also offers the opportunity to express the authentic culture of our people, said director Nelson Ramírez.
The largest rendezvous of contemporary arts on the island began its second phase with the large-format exhibition Manifiesto, by the notable Cuban creator Alexis Leyva (Kcho).
The collection of monumental works made of steel and previously housed in the Museo Orgánico del Romerillo, the epicenter of his social and community work in conjunction with art, extends along the central 5th Avenue of the capital.
In his opinion, these encounters have catapulted his work internationally and he confesses to feeling like “a son of the Biennial, a unique and special space that changed the way in which Cuban artists show and see art.”
In this sense, more than 60 national representatives joined their poetics in the collective exhibition Estado de Espíritu, which opened its doors in the Cuba Pavilion and became a creative breath of fresh air after the previous two years in which the circuits had to rethink cultural, self-management and transformative models.
According to the organizers, the exhibition once again uses “the old settings — without ignoring online platforms— to physically display many of the works created in a virtual space.” From Havana’s iconic Malecón, other large-format exhibits catch the eye and interact with spectators as they give life to the Detrás del Muro project, made by artists Manuel Mendive, Ernesto Rancaño, Ictiandro Rodríguez, Luis Ramón Silva, Osley Ponce, Pedro Escobar and Pedro Luis Cuéllar, who worked with the concept of transformation. Another stand-out exhibition is Un día cuenta, located in the esplanade of the historic Castle of San Salvador de la Punta.
And so the Cuban capital has become a giant gallery for contemporary art and offers an extensive tour through exhibitions and presentations, in addition to several special projects and collaborative workshops, including other cities of the country.