Cuban photographer, Rene Pena and Authentic Cuba Travel's director Luis D'Aguiar reviewing some art works to be shown to tour participants of the Cuba Art Explorer tour. Since the early 1990s, Rene Peña has become one of Cuba’s best-known photographers. He frequently uses his own body to explore issues of race, blackness, and the ambiguities of sexual identities and labels.
Under the theme “artistic practices and the social imaginary”, the Havana Art Biennial
sought to strengthen the social character of the event by going deeper in the thinking of people in different communities. The purpose of the Havana Art Biennial is for young people to identify with the activities of the event so that it becomes a big mirror for Cuban society.
“Spirit, Nature & Heads”, a performance by Mendive. Dancers from dance companies such as the National Folkloric Group walked down Prado Street, from the Saratoga Hotel to the Orígenes Art Gallery, located at the Great Theatre of Havana
, where the artist waited for them to paint on their nude bodies, while the pianist Pura Ortiz played Baroque music.
Habana Art Gallery specializes in contemporary Cuban art and it is one of Havana's oldest and best established galleries; in the last few years, it has extensively promoted the latest trends in today's visual arts. The Cuba Art Explorer will get to visit current exhibit and meet with artists and curators.
During the Cuba Art Explorer tour, we will visit the studio of Juan Carlos Alom who actively works in experimental photography as well as film and video. He is also responsible for founding a studio in Cuba where artists can work and screen their videos. His work often incorporates elements of ritual, magical realism, and Afro-Cuban religion set into tableaux that he then photographs.
Fototeca de Cuba, an art institution created in 1986 to preserve, study and promote the country’s photographic patrimony. The Fototeca is an archive with a vast and valuable collection of documents; it is also a museum with the widest and most valuable collection of Cuban photography known and it functions as a gallery with rooms for temporary exhibitions in which works that do not belong to the permanent collection are generally exhibited.
Visit to La Casona Gallery that focuses its activities on the latest movements within contemporary Cuban art, promoting and marketing the new conceptual projects that use different artistic languages, such as photography, installation, video, painting and sculpture.
During Havana Art Biennial 2009, Roberto Fabelo’s polyurethane cockroaches with human faces scaling the frontage of the Fine Arts Museum have encouraged a great many interpretations, from Franz Kafka’s Gregorio Samsa, who has become one of the symbols of alienation in today’s society, to a warning about the only survivors in a world where Nature is increasingly attacked, or an invitation to the hallucinating union to all things repulsive as a way of survival.
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Day 1. Saturday 22 March. Hello Cuba
Arrival at "Jose Marti" International Airport in Havana City
You are welcomed by your Cuban guide and bus driver for the entire tour.
Transfer to your hotel Presidente (E)
or Nacional de Cuba (P)
Private group check-in.
Breakfast is complimentary from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
Day 2. Sunday 23 March. Havana
Morning: guided tour of the Museum of Fine Arts (Cuban Collection)
where we see the evolution of Cuba's visual arts over the last 300 years. The collection accounts for the richness of our Spanish, French, Chinese, African cultural roots.
Afterwards visit to Callejon de Hamel
. An alleyway street caught in Centro Habana neighborhood where an effort of cultural rescue and expansion led by fine artist Salvador González
has been underway since 1990.
Salvador’s murals and sculptures have taken over entire buildings’ facades– shrines to Afrocuban deities. Meet with Salvador Gonzales to discuss their work and its effects on the neighborhood.
We are now "leaving" Havana and entering Fusterlandia
, the studio, residence and wild kingdom of Jose Fuster
, one of the most important Cuban ceramists and painters today. Lunch hosted by Jose Fuster.
Afternoon: visit the studios of important Cuban contemporary artists such as Alicia Leal
and Juan Moreira
, Juan Carlos Alom
, Britos’ Sisters
, Ernesto Benitez
and others young prominent artists.
Evening: attend one of the most traditional and popular ceremonies in Cuba, Fire of the Cannon of 9 O'Clock
at the Fortress of San Carlos de La Cabana.
Day 3. Monday 24 March. Havana
Morning: visit to the Wifredo Lam Center
, a cultural institution devoted to the study, research and promotion of the contemporary
visual arts in the developing countries from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Housed in the former 18th-century home of the Count and Countess de Peñalver, the Wifredo Lam Center is responsible for the organization of
the Havana Art Biennial
The gallery's permanent collection includes a significant number of Lam's paintings,
drawings, engravings, sculptures.
Visit to Taller Experimental de Gráfica
(Experimental Printing Workshop), a cooperative of young Cuban artists whom can be found working on their lithographs over stone matrices in the large, airy building. The variety of colors, sizes, and content of the prints is wide, including pieces with recognizable Cuban icons, bold black and white woodcuts.
Followed by guided walking tour of UNESCO World Heritage Site
, Old Havana
Visit to the Cathedral Square
, named after the masterpiece of Cuban baroque architecture:
the Cathedral of Havana
built by the Jesuit order.
The Cathedral's baroque facade is simultaneously intimate and imposing, and one of the two towers is visibly larger,
creating a pleasing asymmetry. As with many churches in the city, the building material of Havana
Cathedral includes coral, cut and hauled from the edge of the sea by slaves. Look carefully and you'll see fossils of marine
flora and fauna in the stone of the cathedral.
Visit to Square of Arms
, ancient military parade ground for Spanish soldiers and surrounded by impressive
buildings such as:
Palacio de los Capitanes Generales
, the former official residence of the governors (Captains General) of Havana,
Cuba. It is home to the Museum of the City of Havana. It houses exhibitions of art and historical artefacts and many of the
rooms are preserved with their original Colonial decoration.
Palacio del Segundo Cabo
. The seat of the second authority of the island. Today it houses important publishing
Castillo de la Real Fuerza
. The second oldest fortress built by the Spaniards in the West Indies. The castle was recently renovated
and reopened in June 2008 to hold the impressive maritime museum. Well laid out exhibits chart Spain and Cuba's naval history.
Welcome lunch at La Mina restaurant
Visit to Plaza Vieja
, the only civic square of colonial times. Notice it doesn't have a church or government building around.
Here we will visit important institutions for visual arts.
Continue walking tour onto San Francisco Square
, named after the Convent of San Francisco
this square was conceived in 1628, with the objective of supplying water to the ships trading with the metropolis. For many years it also served to stockpile
the goods arriving from the harbor.
Chronicles of the time say that the square had a busy commercial life. The people, in humble
carts or afoot, sold and bought a variety of goods. It’s important to know that through this place the Spanish immigrants
arrived to Cuba.
Free time in the famous handicraft market of Old Havana
, located inside the Almacenes de Depósito San José, an old warehouse on the harbourside where you can purchase all sorts of crafts and souvenirs by local artisans.
Return to hotel.
Evening: tonight we have a Cuban band playing for us
! We learn how to play and dance to Salsa, Son, Rumba, and other popular Cuban rhythms.
Day 4. Tuesday 25 March. Havana
Morning: guided tour of Cuba's National Art Schools
. ISA professors are all active visual artists,
art curators or art critics. The faculty of visual arts provides a combination of theory and practice designed
for students serious about pursuing artistic achievement through concentrated study.
Study at the Institute is comparable to conservatory work in the United States. This is a great opportunity
to exchange with the new generation of Cuban visual artists. Meet with students and professors.
Lunch at El Aljibe restaurant
Afternoon: visit to Habana Art Gallery
, specializing in contemporary Cuban art, it is one of Havana's oldest and best-established galleries;
in the last few years, it has extensively promoted the latest trends in today's visual arts.
Visit current exhibit and meet with Cuban artists and curators.
Followed by visit to the studios of important Cuban contemporary artists such as Rene Pena
, Lazaro Saavedra
and Jose Angel Toirac
Evening: enjoy Afrojazz, Cubajazz and Sonjazz at Club La Zorra y El Cuervo
, Havana’s most famous Jazz club, located just around the corner from the National Hotel of Cuba. The club features astonishing performances by island bands and soloists! (optional, not included).
Day 5. Wednesday 26 March. Vinales Valley
Day tour to Vinales Valley
, containing the most spectacular scenery in Cuba and some of the most interesting and varied
geological formations on the island. The valley is particularly famous for its great freestanding rock formations called mogotes
Visit local tobacco growing farms
and meet with local farmers
that have been passing from generation to generation the secrets of growing the best tobacco in the world.
Visit to Mural de la Prehistoria
, a huge painting on the side of a Mogote.
Lunch at Cueva del Indio restaurant
After lunch we will visit the Cueva del Indio
, used by the Guanahatabey Amerindians as a burial site in ancient time, and as refuge
from the Spaniards for both Indians and Black slaves alike. We’ll take a short boat ride on the subterranean river
Explore Viñales town
at your leisure: its open-air craft market, Parque Marti, town church, and other interesting sites of this
charming colonial hamlet.
Visit the Viñales Botanical Garden
Return to Havana City
Day 6. Thursday 27 March. Havana
Morning: visit to Finca Vigia
, a hilltop villa 20 kilometers east of Havana, where famed author Ernest Hemingway
lived from 1939 to 1960. It is here where the writer completed some of his greatest works, including The Old Man and the Sea, Across the River and into the Trees, and Islands in the Stream.
The villa has been maintained as a museum for the past 49 years. It contains original book and short story manuscripts, letters, over 3000 photographs, Hemingway’s fishing tackle and gun collections, furniture, priceless art collection, and a 9000 volume library that contains rare first editions of his books and those of other famous writers.
Finca Vigía has made both the World Monuments Fund List
of 100 Most Endangered sites, and The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 11 Most Endangered Places.
Lunch in Cojimar fishing village
Tour around Cojimar fishing village, where Hemingway kept his boat Pilar. The writer is remembered by the town with a small gazebo that encircles a commemorative bust, sculpted from the melted down propellers donated by local fishermen.
Afternoon: visit to several Cuban Art Galleries
Visit to the Center for the Development of Visual Arts
, an art institution that promotes and exhibits the work of Cuban
contemporary artists. Visit current exhibit and meet with artists and curators.
Visit to Fototeca de Cuba
, an art institution created in 1986 to preserve, study and promote the country’s photographic
patrimony and open a space for the promotion of international photography. The Fototeca is an archive with a vast and
valuable collection of documents; it is also a museum with the widest and most valuable collection of Cuban photography
known and it functions as a gallery with rooms for temporary exhibitions in which works that do not belong to the permanent
collection are generally exhibited.
Visit to La Casona Gallery
that focuses its activities on the latest movements within contemporary Cuban art, promoting and
marketing the new conceptual projects that use different artistic languages, such as photography, installation, video,
painting and sculpture.
Return to your hotel.
Evening: enjoy performance of the National Ballet of Cuba
at the Great Theatre of Havana (optional) (TBC).
Day 7. Friday 28 March. Havana
Free day to revisit your favourite art galleries, exhibits and studios.
Farewell dinner at Cafe del Oriente
Day 8. Saturday 29 March. Departure
Early morning departure to Havana City International Airport
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Overview on Cuba's Visual Arts
Cuban art is a very diverse cultural blend of African, European and North American design reflecting the diverse demographic of the island.
The radical artistic movements that transformed European art in the first decades of the century arrived in Latin America in the 1920s to form part of a vigorous current of artistic, cultural, and social innovation.
By the late 1920's, the Vanguardia artists had rejected the academic conventions of Cuba's national art academy. In their formative years, many had lived in Paris, where they studied and absorbed the tenets of surrealism, cubism, and modernist primitivism.
Modernism burst on the Cuban scene as part of the critical movement of national regeneration that arose in opposition to the dictatorship of Gerardo Machado, American neo-colonial control and the consequent economic crisis.
They returned to Cuba committed to new artistic innovation and keen to embrace the heritage of their island. These artists became increasingly political in their ideology, viewing the rural poor as symbols of national identity in contrast to the ruling elite of post independence Cuba.
The masters of the first generation of Cuban modernism set the stage for the prevalence of certain themes that would govern Cuban art after 1930, and which would have varying degrees of impact on those generations that would later emerge entirely in exile after 1960.
Between 1934 and 1940, and still reeling from the overthrow of Machado, Cuba was searching for its cultural identity in its European and African roots. The landscape, flora, fauna, and lore of the island, as well as its peasants-the often neglected foundation of Cuba’s soul and economy-emerged in its art.
After the Cuban revolution of 1959 Cuban artists became more isolated from the anti-establishment artistic movements of the United States and Europe. Though artists continued to produce work in Cuba, many pursued their careers in exile.
By the late 1970s many of the graduates of the school of the arts in Cuba, “the Facultad de Artes Plasticas of the Instituto Superior de Arte” (founded in 1976) were going to work as school teachers, teaching art to young Cubans across the island. This gave a platform for the graduates to be able to teach students about freedom of expression.
This meant freedom of expression in many forms including medium, message, and style of art. It was this new level of experimentation and expression that was able to enable the movement of the 1980s.
Cubans saw the introduction of an art exhibit titled “Volumen Uno” in 1981, an exhibit that featured contemporary Cuban artists displaying their work in a series of one man exhibitions. Three years later, the introduction of the “Havana Bienal” assisted in the further progression of the liberation of art and free speech therein.
This age of artist was dedicated to people who were willing to take risks in their art and truly express themselves, rather than to express only things that supported the political movement.
While looking at art of the 1980s we see a trend in use of the shape of Cuba itself as inspiration for art. One piece, Immediately Geographic by artist Florencio Gelabert Soto, is a sculpture in the shape of Cuba, but is broken into many pieces.
A movement that mirrored this artistic piece was underway in which the shape of Cuba became a token in the artwork in a phase known as “tokenization.” This artwork often combined the shape of the island of Cuba with other attributes of the nation, such as the flag. By combining the various symbols of Cuba together the artists were proudly proclaiming ‘this is who we are’.