We are already on the eve of a new edition of the Havana Biennial, number 12. With a 30 year experience the Biennial, since its creation in 1984, turns every 3 years not only in the most important exhibit event taking place in the country but also in an event that places Cuba on the forefront of the international art system.
The expectations for this year’s edition are high. The Biennial, as always, both in and out of the Island, generates a great debate. The curatorial proposal by the team of experts from Centro Wifredo Lam is aiming at the spreading of the artistic actions throughout different spaces in the city. So there will not be a central site or nucleus for the exhibitions. That means that we will have to move, at the rhythm of the May sunshine, among a host of institutions, galleries, and public spaces in Old Havana, Casablanca, Centro Habana, Vedado and Playa, mostly.
But the Biennial, over many years, not only has been the official exhibit organized by its main curators. A large number of collateral exhibits by local artists are prepared over months to be inaugurated during the framework of the great Havana meeting whether in galleries, alternative spaces, arranged for the occasion, or artists’ studios; also spread out throughout town. Besides, this year the National Council for Visual Arts is repeating the experience of the 11th edition, to organize at the Morro-Cabaña Complex a panoramic exhibit, a “Free Trade Zone” of Cuban contemporary art.
As for the artists invited to take part in the official exhibit list, the amount reaches 119 creators from 44 countries, out of whom 26 are Cuban-born. Names of worldwide fame stand out, currently considered masters of post-modern art, who undoubtedly add prestige with their presence to the Biennial, such as American Joseph Kosuth, an iconic figure of the linguistic conceptual tendency; French Daniel Buren, equally from a conceptual affiliation, more interested in the relation of the subject with his environment; Italian Michelangelo Pistoletto, one of the founders of Arte Povera, who is also a well-known art critic; or Uruguayan Luis Camnitzer, one of the Latin American artists of international recognition, also known as critic, theorist and essayist.
Another group of names deserve to be mentioned, because they are artists who have gained international fame and are representatives of some of the more experimental areas of contemporary art, such as Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor, the Brazilian founder of bio art Eduardo Kac, and Koen Vanmechelen, a conceptual Belgian artist interested in biodiversity, or Argentinian Joaquín Fargas, another creator who imbricates artistic creation with experimental science and last generation technologies.
On the other hand, within the selection of Cuban artists for the official exhibit we can recognize representatives of at least three generations. The Biennial also fulfills the role of becoming a platform for the international projection not only for our artists with a longer trajectory and recognition, but also for younger talents.
–Dr. Hamlet Fernández