The First Art Newspaper on the Net Established in 1996 United States Monday, December 22, 2014


Havana sees United States invasion at key art festival
A visitor takes a picture of "My Ark" by Cuban artist Ruben Alpizar at the San Carlos de La Cabana fortress as part of the 11th Havana Biennial exhibition in Havana, Cuba, Friday, May 25, 2012. The piece was bought by an American art collector during the month long art event. An unusually large delegation of American artists, curators, collectors and fans were accredited to attend the Biennial, organizers say. Unlike with other island goods, it's perfectly legal for Americans to buy Cuban art, which is covered under an exemption to the 50-year-old U.S. embargo allowing the purchase of “informational materials.” AP Photo/Franklin Reyes.

By: Peter Orsi, Associated Press

HAVANA (AP).- Ruben Alpizar never met the American collector who fell in love with his painting of a plummeting Icarus against a starry background, hanging on the wall of a Spanish colonial-era fortress across the bay from Havana. Nor did he get a name or a hometown, or even learn whether the buyer was a man or a woman.

It all happened quickly, starting with a phone call from a broker. "How much for the painting? Look, I think somebody wants it. I'll call you right back." Soon after, the phone rang again: "Sold."

"We need more people coming from Gringoland," Alpizar said with a smile, not a hint of derision in his voice as he employed a term that can be either affectionate or pejorative depending on the context. "They pay the price you ask."

The streets of the Cuban capital are, in fact, awash with American art pilgrims during the monthlong Biennial, a showcase connecting local contemporary artists with well-heeled foreign collectors - key clients in a country whose citizens have little real purchasing power.

Alpizar, for one, would not say how much his painting sold for, but offered that his work normally goes for between $3,000 and $15,000, a windfall in a country where most people earn the equivalent of $20 a month.

The Americans are arriving in larger numbers because of the Obama administration's relaxation of U.S. embargo travel rules. They say they see a chance to explore the unknown and look for the ultimate conversation piece to hang on the living room wall.

"I think there is a mystique and the association with the 'time-capsule island' and all that's inaccessible," said Rachel Weingeist, an adviser to Shelley and Donald Rubin on their Cuban art collection. The couple's New York-based Rubin Foundation promotes the arts and humanitarian causes.

"Frankly we haven't had much access until recently," Weingeist said.

The Americans say they're impressed by the island's sophisticated fine arts scene compared to those in other countries in the Caribbean and elsewhere. Auctions by Christie's and Sotheby's have firmly cemented Cuban art in the U.S. consciousness, such as this week's sale of a painting by the late surrealist Wilfredo Lam for $4.56 million.

"There's so much heart. It's very intense. It's about a sense of place," said Jennifer Jacobs of Portland, Oregon, who led a private group of 15 collectors from Seattle to the Biennial. "It really spoke to me personally."

Terry Hall, an art collector and accountant from Gurnee, Illinois, just south of the Wisconsin border, said she was surprised by the variety she saw.

Cuban art embraces diverse themes and styles, and even ventures into the political. One piece on display at the Biennial, shaped like a mailbox, has a slot with large, sharp bloody fangs and an invitation for "Complaints and Suggestions."

"I came down here expecting art that was more colorful, more Caribbean in flavor and what I found is more international, more cutting-edge, more ambitious art," said Hall. "I've really been very excited about it. I think it rivals anything I've seen anywhere else as far as the execution, the expertise and the ambitious ideas."

More than 1,300 American artists, curators, collectors and fans have been accredited for the Biennial, organizers say, an unusually large delegation from what some say is the most important market for Cuban art. Unlike with other island goods, it's perfectly legal for Americans to buy Cuban art, which is covered under an exemption to the 50-year-old U.S. embargo allowing the purchase of "informational materials."

"They're coming by the busload," said Alpizar, who just two weeks into the Biennial had sold a half-dozen works including the piece featuring Icarus, entitled "Home." Another painting that was snapped up by an American collector, "My Ark," was a whimsical cross between a stern of a boat and a religious tableau, with famous historical figures peeking out from the windows: Ernest Hemingway, Karl Marx, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and Pope John Paul II.

While Cuban emigrant artists living in Miami sometimes struggle to be noticed, artists who remain on the island enjoy the cachet of providing a kind of forbidden fruit for U.S. collectors. People on both sides of the exchange say the mutual affinity exists not despite but because of the five decades of geographical proximity and political animosity.

Many collectors are Cuban-Americans, perhaps eager to acquire a link to their lost homeland. Others are patrons from big cities such as New York, San Francisco and Seattle that are more open to detente.

"There's a very easy connection between us. The American public ... has a very special sensitivity to Cuban art," said Carlos Rene Aguilera, who exhibited a dozen paintings inspired by black holes, string theory and other scientific mysteries, hauled all the way from the eastern city of Santiago. "Maybe it's because of curiosity about each other's history. Maybe it's because we are neighbors and there is a messy relationship between our countries, so this creates interest."

So great is that interest that Americans are often willing to shell out the asking price with little background research, and with a little luck, even junior artists can command eye-popping prices. Tales abound about fourth-year university students selling pieces for $15,000, equal to the prices commanded by Alpizar, an established artist whose work has been shown in dozens of individual and collective exhibitions over a 23-year career.

"It's what the market will bear, and why not shoot for the moon?" Weingeist said. "All it takes is somebody feeling giddy who's got the money for something they like."

The transactions are usually handshake agreements to wire money to bank accounts holding international currencies that many artists prefer to keep in Spain, the Netherlands or Canada, rather than the local bank accounts for Cuban pesos used only on the island. The seller then ships carefully wrapped paintings to overseas addresses.

Galleries are cut out of their traditional middleman role, giving collectors the sense that they're getting a better deal. The arrangement also brings buyers in direct contact with the artists as they go knocking on the doors of home studios.

Artists say the Biennial is a crucial time to build their names and establish those contacts.

"I've collected a ton of business cards," said artist Tamara Campo, whose ode to the world financial crisis is installed in a bunker of La Cabana fortress. It features a wave of some 650 banknotes fashioned from fragrant cedar cascading from the ceiling into a jumbled pile on the floor.

"A lot of people want to talk to me," Campo said. "I have to check my email, because it's been days."




Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.





Today's News

May 27, 2012

Archaeologists find rare trove of 3,000-year-old jewelry near the ancient city of Megiddo

Brilliant results for selected works by Fontana, Burri, Castellani and Boetti at Sotheby's in Milan

First major Canadian exhibition of works by van Gogh for more than 25 years opens at the National Gallery

Pacific Science Center presents "Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Golden Pharaohs"

Sotheby's announces sale of 20th Century Decorative Arts & Contemporary Design

Brancolini Grimaldi Gallery in London showcases the work of Cardiff-born artist Peter Fraser

Painting by Wu Guangzhong tops Bonhams Sale of Fine Chinese Paintings and Contemporary Asian Art

Kenyan-born paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey predicts evolution debate will soon be history

Exquisite vases owned by Bachelor of Narford Hall sell at Bonhams for outstanding price

"Phantom Limb: Approaches to Painting Today" opens at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

At Home with the Queen: Photographic portraits of Londoners at home with their treasured souvenirs

Laumeier Sculpture Park receives grant to support conservation of a major art work by Donald Judd

New York's Metropolitan Museum lets visitors climb to cloud nine with Argentinian artist Tomas Saraceno

DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum announces works by Jedediah Caesar as part of PLATFORM series

First exhibition in Scandinavia by the Canadian artist Christina Mackie opens at Kunsthal Charlottenborg

Thorburn owned by first man to propose remembrance silence to honour war dead for sale at Bonhams

Havana sees United States invasion at key art festival

Kaminski Auctions' June Estate Sale includes paintings by Canadian-born artist Victor Ostrovsky

Park of animatronic dinosaurs opening in New Jersey

Most Popular Last Seven Days



1.- Colossal statue of Amenhotep III unveiled on the west bank of the Nile in Egypt

2.- British royals crown New York visit with gala dinner

3.- Missing artwork rediscovered in "Stuart Little" sells for over 200,000 euros at auction

4.- Rossetti's Venus Verticordia soars at Sotheby's in London to sell for £2.88 million

5.- Russian magnate buys, then returns Nobel prize to American geneticist James Watson

6.- Egyptian Museum unveils four newly renovated halls of the famed Tutankhamun gallery

7.- 'The Secret of Dresden: From Rembrandt to Canaletto' on view at the Groninger Museum

8.- Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum reopens after three-year renovation

9.- More than 200 queries about works by possible heirs received on Nazi-era art hoard

10.- Attorney, artist and filmmaker reflects on the seven lessons learned at 2014 Art Basel Miami Beach



Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .

 

Founder:
Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez - Marketing: Carla Gutiérrez
Special Contributor: Liz Gangemi - Special Advisor: Carlos Amador
Contributing Editor: Carolina Farias

Royalville Communications, Inc
produces:

ignaciovillarreal.org theavemaria.org juncodelavega.org facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
Hommage
to a Mexican poet.
Hommage
       

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site