Cuba's artistic output finds its place on the world stage
The island nation's deep pool of well-trained artists, along with anticipation of political and social changes, have pushed Cuban art to the fore.
Long Beach, Calif.
As host to two new shows featuring Cuban artists, 20th-century master Wifredo Lam and up-and-coming Carlos Luna, this surfer's mecca is riding a wave of another sort, a rising tide of interest in the visual arts of this tiny Caribbean nation.Skip to next paragraph
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Nestled inside the coolly modern Museum of Latin American Art, just blocks from the beach, the twin shows "Wifredo Lam in North America," and "Carlos Luna: El Gran Mambo," carry a dual message. On the one hand, they explore themes common to multiple generations of Cuban artists, revealing that the search for a clear identity in the shadow of a neighboring superpower continues from one era to the next. On the other hand, the broader context of the shows reveals something new, say curators, gallery owners, and other art professionals: Latin American art, especially Cuban work, is hot. "El Troubador," by Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo, sold for $7.2 million at a Christie's auction this past spring; the first major museum overview of Cuban art just closed at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art; and the only US gallery solely devoted to Cuban artists reports that, in the past year, sales tripled to $13 million.
Strategically placed at the intersection of the new and old worlds, the small country of 11 million people has historically juggled cultural influences from around the globe, and its artists continue to reflect that struggle. But a 50-year trade embargo by the United States has largely kept this creative output under wraps.
Now, a heady mix of forces is pushing Cuba into the spotlight, Mr. Carter adds, among them a deep pool of well-trained artists in the country and a growing anticipation of political and social changes under the new Rául Castro regime. Art markets in Russia and China experienced a similar boom during the past decade says Ramón Cernuda, director of Cernuda Arte Gallery in Coral Gables, Fla. “As these countries undergo enormous social change, their art markets become valuable and interesting to the world art markets,” he says.