The Cuban Art Collection: CdeCuba Art Collection

MSc. Isdanny Morales Sosa. Havana, Cuba

 

Havana University
Faculty of Arts and Literature
Art History Department

 

MASTER DEGREE IN ART HISTORY
Seventh edition (2017-2021)

 

Brief History of the Collection

The collection was initiated by Ximo Sánchez in 2008 in parallel with the birth of CdeCuba Art Magazine. Ximo had always been interested in treasuring objects. First there were stickers of Spanish teams’ football players, old paper money and coins given to him by his paternal grandparents when he was very young; later, stamps and beach sand from his trips to different countries, and  over the last ten years, Cuban art.

In July 2001 Ximo traveled to Cuba for the first time, moved by the interest to delve into the cultural ties that unite Cuba and Spain. On that occasion he visited galleries and artists’ studios, and acquired some works on cardboard almost all of which were sold later in Spain in an exhibition-sale among friends that he carried out himself in his home-gallery. This marked the beginning of his interest in Cuban art. The following year he returned to Havana and something happened that he considers decisive in his young career. He met Raúl Puig, a Cuban-Catalonian painter whose teachers had been Pablo Picasso and Diego Rivera. He was fascinated by his stories and established a long-lasting professional and friendly relationship with him. It was Puig who encouraged him to study Art History. At the age of 24 he began to collect and commercialize the work of Raúl Puig.

Shortly thereafter and having traveled several times to Cuba, the initial modest collection basically destined for personal enjoyment grew with the birth of CdeCuba Art Magazine, the purpose of which is to register and promote Cuban contemporary art made in the island and abroad. Since then, the collection has been constantly growing and today has around 450 works by artists living in Cuba, the United States, Latin America and Europe. The magazine operates as a catalogue, as a visual record of the art that is currently being produced, especially by the youngest generations of creators. CdeCuba Art Magazine is an important bridge of dialogue between creators, critics, curators, collectors, and gallery owners.

Media, Thematic Lines and Main Artists

The collection is made up of a large number of media, mainly painting, drawing, art-object, photography, sculpture, engraving, and installation. The pieces have been created between 1999 and 2018 by artists who belong to the so-called Millennium Generation, whose poetics have emerged after the 2000’s. In this way, it works as a documentary record of the youngest emerging production. The collection includes not only works of artists who have already achieved international recognition, either through a systematic presence in both solo and group exhibitions, art fairs, represented by important galleries or in public or private renowned collections, but also pieces of younger creators who have not yet reached the above-mentioned status quo. In short, the collection functions as a thermometer through which one can visualize the main trends, concerns, thematic lines or procedures in which Cuban creators have been interested during the last two decades.

In this way and in general terms, the works of the first promotion of creators who began to act with greater emphasis and repercussion in the local environment from the year 2000 onwards are representative of the CdeCuba Art Collection. Many of these pieces are linked to the production of the eighties and nineties, while they also address problems and issues concerning the national political context with a sociological vocation, and others are anthropological. Such is the case of Duvier del Dago (Iconografía política, 2009) who, starting out in his drawings from the language of comics, combines images of highly erotic female figures with certain military symbols or phrases from the political rhetoric; or José Ángel Vincench (Series Compromiso o ficción de la pintura 2010), whose work is the result of a gradual process of superimposing letters of words that are typical of the island’s socio-political vocabulary, among them: «dissident», «worm», «exile», ending in a palimpsest of images that give rise to an abstract work. The pieces by Jorge Wellesley (Series Ensayos sobre el discurso, 2012), David Beltrán (Ho Chi Minh City, 2013) and Alan Manuel González (Marcha atrás…, 2016), among others, also belong to this promotion.

In this regard, a recurring trend in contemporary Cuban art present in CdeCuba Art Collection is the change in the forms of creation and understanding of art as a work-object, or even as a process understood as a work in itself that does not develop according to the classic technical methods but through a hard research of history or micro-histories. Research is thus preferred as work resource, and topics linked to the articulation of relations between history and power are dealt with. In the end, they are exercises for the deconstruction of history, myths, imaginaries and memory, and contain anthropological and social value as in the pieces by Henry Eric Hernández (Ni inocencia ni experiencia, 2013), Celia-Yunior (La cita, 2016), Levi Orta (Notebook, 2010), Reynier Leyva Novo (No me gusta el rojo, 2009-2011), and Duniesky Martín (La vida de los otros nunca ha dejado.. ser de nosotros, 2007-2008).

In these works, heirs of previous moments of national creation, there is an encounter of knowledge that excels the procedures of art understood in the terms of tradition, since they appropriate hybrid tools related to philosophy, linguistics, sociology or anthropology as cultural studies or the theories of the social imaginaries. Due to the very sensitive issues addressed by these artists, they have created a strong tension with the Cuban political institutions, marking a burning point in the history of recent Cuban art and are very representative within the current panorama.

Another distinctive line found in the collection is the New Painting, a term used in 2008 by critic and curator Píter Ortega, or baptized in parallel by Rufo Caballero as pintura pepilla to describe the strengthening of painting in our island toward the first decade of the 2000s by young creators mostly born between 1981 and 1985; and at that time, students or recent graduates of ISA, after two decades in which installation, object and performance had been the favorite local genres. That moment of the recent Cuban art history is represented in the collection by the works of Miguel Ángel Salvó(Desfile por la Alameda de Extramuros, 2016), Michel Pérez Pollo (Los límites del pensamiento, 2010), Niels Reyes (Las dos miradas, 2011), José Yaque (Lambeth Bridge, 2013), Osvaldo González Aguiar (Si te he visto, no me recuerdo, 2009), Orestes Hernández (La canastilla, 2009), or Rubén Fuentes (La isla infinita, 2012-2013).

All these artists nourish from the colossal artistic exercises of Peter Doig, Anselm Kiefer, Miquel Barceló, Gerhard Richter, Mark Rothko, Frank Stella, or Robert Ryman, just to mention a few, all masters of contemporary painting. These artists aroused certain dissatisfactions and polemics in the national context in their day due to the disapproval of painting as a contemporary genre by many critics, curators and specialists, in favor of installation, conceptual or performance trends that were becoming a many times sociological line with a political tint inherited from the eighties. On the other hand, for others, an idea that I share: to create works of art there are no more or less correct means to generate a contemporary proposal, but contemporary discursive strategies exist beyond any form of expression.

In spite of the complaints, painting has once again become a procedure in use in the island’s artistic context, largely due to the main argument of its opponents that it is really the easiest medium to market and has the greatest demand in the art market. Whatever the reason, after a first generation like that of Campins, Niels or El Pollo with works and styles already refined and recognized, a wave of young painters has emerged who are currently acting as important figures of the most recent Cuban art. These creators focus on different problems and address issues related to the landscape, Oriental philosophy and, specifically, the practice of meditation, art as a language, the existential crisis, and the ways to visually express certain emotions such as disenchantment, the dryness of the soul, and unconsciousness, among others. These novel poetics by artists born after 1986 are also very well represented in CdeCuba Art Collection. Such are the cases of Maikel Sotomayor (Seguirán viniendo del norte, 2016), Richard Somonte (Montaña y nube, 2016), Karlos Pérez (Ametropía, Test no.1, 2012), Luis López-Chávez (La Trinidad según André Rubliov, 2013), Lancelot Alonso (Series Delirio, 2014), Elizabet Cerviño (Arrastrar el punto de anclaje, 2009-2010), Miriannys Montes de Oca (Todos con fe, 2016), and many others.

The collection includes works by artists who do not belong to the above-mentioned generations but are key figures in contemporary Cuban art, such as Lázaro García (En medio de ti por su amor, 2018), Ángel Delgado (El peso de la justicia II, 2009), Douglas Pérez (Series Cuaderno del Quinto Mundo), Noel Morera (Series Puertos de La Habana, 2005), Pedro Vizcaíno (Series Ovni, 2010) and Ángel Ricardo Ríos (Sin título, 2016), among others.

Exhibition and Socialization of the Works

The collection has been shown through different channels. The most systematic have been the digital media, since all the works are shown in a permanent section of CdeCuba Art Magazine’s website (www.cdecubaartmagazine.com) as well as on the collection’s own website www.cdecubaartcollection.com. In addition, it is promoted through social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Issuu and YouTube, generating constant activity.

Ximo Sanchez has distributed and presented the magazine in the United States, Cuba and Spain. He has promoted it in art fairs, universities, and art galleries, as well as among artists, curators, and critics, which also means promoting the collection.

Conclusions

In this article we have presented the CdeCuba Art Magazine collection, an initiative that has been systematically developed by Ximo Sánchez and his team since 2008 with the aim of registering and internationally promoting contemporary Cuban art. From that date up to the present, the collection has grown up to ca. 450 pieces produced by Cuban artists in the country or abroad, showing us the main styles and themes of a good part of the artistic production of recent years.

Both the collection and the magazine are promotional spaces for artists and undoubtedly make them known to critics, curators, and specialists in general. This is a valuable opportunity in our context, where there is a shortage of collectors and specialized art magazines. In the face of such desolate panorama as ours, with the lack of a museum of Cuban contemporary art and of good conditions for the conservation of the works in the state art centers, an initiative such as this one that provides an archive of the art production in the last two decades is very important. 

Bibliography and Reference Materials

Correa Iglesias, Antonio. «Between Anagrams and Paroxysms: CdeCuba Art Magazine and the Vertigo of the Unexpected».

Espinosa, Magaly. «Que me quiten lo bailao: Artes visuales en La Cuba del 2000».

Pérez López, Ana. «La evaluación de colecciones: métodos y modelos», in: www.ugr.es (University of Granada, Spain).

Catalogues:

CdeCuba Art Collection. Ximo Sánchez (Editor and Director). 

Interviews:

Interview with Ximo Sánchez, conducted online on July 20, 2018.