The 11th Havana Biennale is a celebration of art. Throughout the city, not only museums, galleries and theaters serve as a platform, but also the streets, parks and El Malecon seaside boulevard are filled with visual and performing arts.
The official show and satellite events cover the entire city and everyone somehow joins the experience. A surprisingly large number of art collectors, gallerists and curators from the USA flocked to the streets of Havana hoping to discover the unknown upcoming artists in this vibrant splash of art, sharing the space with their peers from Latin America and Spain. While the previous ten editions of the Havana Biennale were hosted at the 16th century San Carlos de la Cabaña fortress, this edition aims at linking art, artist and observer in the public space.
Among the 113 artists from 43 countries are established names including Marina Abramovic, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Damián Ortega, Humberto Vélez, and internationally renowned Cuban artists such as Los Carpinteros, Kcho, Carlos Garaicoa and Jorge Pardo. The special value of this biennale gears around the cross-fertilization between them and the new generation of Cuban arts students.
Participating in his one-week workshop, students from the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA) worked with Gabriel Orozco on the subtlety of arrangement at the ruins of the ballet building located at their paradise-like campus. Construction of this building started in 1961, but was left unfinished for lack of resources. Orozco and students displaced years of dust, rearranged littered glass and bricks into patterns of circles and covered up graffiti with mud, creating a new environment without adding or removing anything.
In a very different setting, between peaceful palm trees and rippling creeks of a former Country Club, Hermann Nitsch assembled an orchestra of music students to perform 135 Aktion, a crucifixion rite in which dramatic music was accompanied by the smell of blood combined with pig organs and fish spread over nude bodies.
Meanwhile, in the Museum of Fine Arts, a symptom of the changing political environment was illustrated by showing 85 pieces from the collection of one of the most prominent art collectors of Miami and former Cuban refugee, Ella Fontanals-Cisneros. The exhibition included works by Thomas Struth, Ai Weiwei, Olafur Eliasson, Jannis Kounellis, Joseph Kosuth, Ana Mendieta and Félix González Torres.
The Havana Biennale provides a young generation of Cuban artists with the opportunity to experience art and collaborate with artists they rarely have access to, a boost to this generation eager to explore new venues. Even if the quality of the whole range of projects of biennale and satellite programs differs duly, the synergy between emerging Cuban artists and established artists from different parts of the world is refreshing. It’s a spark of change in which dreams about the future merge with the urge to create, expose and witness new art. This powerful approach makes the 11th edition of the Havana Biennale an overwhelming experience for every spectator.
Art Practices and Social Imageries
11 May - 11 June
11 May - 20 August