News and Facts about Cuba

US collectors dash to Cuba

US collectors dash to Cuba
Diplomatic thaw draws collectors and curators to the Caribbean island
by JULIA HALPERIN, JAVIER PES | 2 December 2015

As Art Basel in Miami Beach opens to VIPs today, a nearby city looms
large on collectors’ minds: Havana. This is the first edition of the
fair since diplomatic ties between the US and Cuba were restored in
July, and since the US relaxed its trade on Cuba last December,
but art enthusiasts are already flocking to the Caribbean island.

“There were always serious collectors who went to Cuba with museum
groups, but now you are getting a second group—Chelsea collectors,” says
Alberto Magnan, the Cuban-born co-founder of Magnan Metz Gallery in New
York. “I’m having trouble getting rooms.”

Although visual art has long been exempted from the embargo, the new
rules enable US citizens to to Cuba more easily. They can also
buy art with a credit card rather than having to pay cash or transfer
money through a non-Cuban intermediary. Magnan estimates that he has
accompanied 100 US collectors on their first trip to Cuba this year.
Only last week, he sailed to Havana with Frank Gehry on the architect’s
yacht.

Next big thing

Institutions and exhibitors in Miami are responding to the increased
interest. Work by Cuban and Cuban-American artists including Yoan
Capote, Alexandre Arrechea and Jorge Pardo is on show at Art Basel in
Miami Beach, and a host of institutions are presenting Cuban art, such
as a show of work by Gustavo Pérez Monzón at the Cisneros Fontanals Art
Foundation.

The Miami-based foundation is in talks with the Museo Nacional de Bellas
Artes in Havana to organise a travelling show of works dating from the
1950s to the present, many of which have not been seen outside Cuba. The
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and
the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, are among
the potential venues for the show, which is planned for 2017.

Curators are also keen to buy work by young artists before it becomes
too expensive. Stéphane Aquin, the chief curator at the Hirshhorn, says
that the institution hopes to buy a work shown at this year’s Havana
Biennial for $20,000. “It will be $50,000 to $100,000 in… two years,” he
says. “Even my landlord in Washington went to Cuba and asked me about
artists.”

Italian-based Galleria Continua (L6) opened a space in Havana last week,
in partnership with Cuba’s culture ministry. The inaugural show features
young Cuban artists such as Alejandro Campins, Reynier Leyva Novo and
Carlos Garaicoa.

The British sculptor Anish Kapoor tells us that he is looking forward to
showing his work in the gallery’s new space and to visiting Cuba for the
first time. But the logistics remain complicated. The work “will have to
be made there”, Kapoor says, because it is still “very difficult” to
ship objects to the island.

“It’s hard to say how the art produced will change, but I have always
been appreciative of how Cuban artists have addressed the challenges to
their freedoms,” says Donald Rubin, who began to buy Cuban art with his
wife, Shelley, in 2008 and presented works from their collection at New
York’s Bronx Museum of the Arts this year.

An island nation of less than 12 million people, Cuba punches above its
weight partly because of its strong art schools, such as the ISA
( de las Artes), and its inexpensive studio space. Artists
enjoy elevated social status and can travel more freely than other Cuban
citizens (but this does not seem to apply to those, like Tania ,
who openly criticise the government).

“One of the few legal ways in Cuba to get rich and travel the world is
to be a visual artist,” says Anthony Rubenstein, the author of
Cutting-Edge Art in Havana. “The art is like the Harvard Business
School of Cuba.”

Sean Kelly (B17), who is presenting work by the Cuban collective Los
Carpinteros (priced from €16,500 to €95,000), adds a note of caution. “A
feeding frenzy is a better story, but it would be a worse outcome,” he
says. “I hope there will be a more gradual blossoming.” Rubenstein says:
“I don’t know if it’s a boom or a bubble; we won’t know for another five
years.”

Source: US collectors dash to Cuba –
theartnewspaper.com/reports/us-collectors-make-mad-dash-to-cuba/

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