Cuba-based artists in Miami get attention in changing time


A report by Adriana Gómez Licón for the Reading Eagle.

President Donald Trump’s effort to reverse a historic opening between the U.S. and Cuba is raising tensions in South Florida’s exile enclave, where wealthy patrons and institutions have sought to unify Cubans on both sides through unprecedented art exhibits.

Museums and cultural centers are rewriting old rules on the kind of Cuban art that has a place in Miami now that decades have passed since exiles bombed a gallery and torched a painting in the 1980s to draw a line against supporting any artist still living under Fidel Castro.TODAY’S SPONSOR:

Collectors and curators now find audiences in Miami when they show contemporary Cuban artists who established themselves under Communist rule. But by upending the old order, they’re exposing a new conflict: Some artists in the diaspora see artists still working in Cuba as unfair competition.

A show at the Perez Art Museum Miami is bringing both sides together in an exhibit so extensive, it will be presented in three parts over 10 months. Another exhibit in South Florida gathered works from 20 artists from present-day Cuba. And a Miami-based Cuban arts foundation announced earlier this year that it will open an important prize to include artists, writers and musicians who still live in Cuba.

Jorge Perez, a billionaire son of Cuban exiles who donated millions in cash and art and earned the naming rights to Miami’s premier art museum, said the old dichotomy of “Cuban from Cuba, Cuban from Miami” should no longer apply.

“Putting them together is very, very important,” Perez said. “The more we can get artists and people to come here and see what they can do – in a free way without being bothered – the better.”

Tobias Ostrander, the Perez museum’s curator, says he’s been careful to showcase both sides in “On the Horizon.”

“Some people feel that there is often more interest in artists working on the island than working in Miami,” Ostrander said. “If people really pay attention to the way that we are approaching it, we are very much recognizing the sensitivities around showing contemporary Cuban art, but I hope presenting it in a way that encompasses or leaves space for a lot of different views.”

One of the stunners is “Island (sea-escape)” by Yoan Capote, a sculptor and painter who lives in Havana. Four panels depict a choppy sea. A closer look reveals that the waters are in fact half a million fish hooks, sticking out from the canvas.

Passions are running high again after Trump’s victory reinvigorated hardliners. Many older people still favor shunning the island and everyone on it as long as a Castro is in power.

“I have dozens of friends who are painters in Miami who are starving and they have no paintings in that museum,” Midiala Rosales, a singer-songwriter in the heavily-Cuban suburb of Hialeah, said in a debate about Cuban artists aired by the Spanish-language station America TeVe. “We are marginalized. We live in exile. We have no country and no place to show our work.”

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