A report by Alejandra Martínez for WLRN.
A new play in Miami explores the implications of Cuban politics on art.
“FAKE” takes place in an auction house in Miami where curators have received an extremely rare painting from prestigious Cuban artist Amelia Pelaez. Immediately, they face questions about its authenticity.
Playwright Carmen Pelaez, the artist’s great-niece, wrote FAKE to explore the lengths people will go to protect what they love.
“Art is the only real history that we have,” Pelaez said on Sundial.
FAKE is at the Colony Theatre in Miami Beach until Feb. 17.
WLRN: Where did the inspiration for the show come from?
Pelaez: I run the Amelia Pelaez Foundation and I had to deal with a lot of people trying to sell fake ‘Amelias.’ It’s deceptively simple work but nobody can grab her line. They don’t have her flow. People think they can copy her and they never are able to do it well. In dealing on eBay and stuff like that I’ve had to deal directly with people … you are trying to make money off a sacrifice that you did not endure.
What role does the Cuban government play with authenticating the work?
The Cuban government knows this is something that’s been talked about a lot. I don’t have physical proof of it but they’ll have artists that duplicate work just to sell it. I’ve heard many instances of it … people that have met people that used to do that as their job in Cuba. I was at a conference with the FBI the other day and they said ‘when it comes to Cuban art you just don’t even want to touch it’ because there are so many fakes out there. Unfortunately [in] Miami there’s a market for fakes. There’s a lot of people that will buy a fake, knowing it’s a fake and they will say ‘it looks like Amelia.’ You know if you love the work so much, if it makes you so happy, then get a real one and if you don’t get a book. If you can’t afford it, don’t get a fake. Don’t give the people that are exploiting the name money.
This is the interesting aspect of the Latino experience in Miami, especially with Cubans. Describe how you dive into that in this show?
My family left Cuba with nothing; all they had were their memories and their practices and their attitudes and that’s what they gave us. I think that that comes into play because whenever you’re dealing with Cuba it’s always a problem, especially if you have to deal with any kind of official Cuba. There’s always a game to play. It’s always a challenge. They look at us as we abandoned the country and it’s like we did not abandon the country… we wanted freedom!
It’s disheartening because ultimately we all supposedly want the same thing which is a free and happy Cuba. That’s the line on both sides… and there’s a lot of making war instead of looking for ways of dialogue and growth. So it’s always an interesting thing because even if you don’t want to touch it, it touches you. When you’re Cuban, you can help it.