The State of the (Cuban) Art – One Curator’s View


Irina Leyva-Pérez interviews Dr. Carol Damian on her latest exhibition, the upcoming Havana Biennial, and the state of Cuban art today. Here are excerpts; read the full interview at Cuban Art News.

Dr. Carol Damian is a former professor of art and art history and former director and chief curator at the Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum at Florida International University, Miami. Over the years, she has curated numerous exhibitions for museums and galleries—most recently, Carlos Estevez: Entelechy, Works from 1992 to 2018, on view through May 5 at the Tucson Museum of Art.

After the exhibition’s recent opening in Tucson, Irina Leyva-Pérez spoke with Damian about the exhibition, about Cuban art and artists in Miami, and the evolving position of Cuban art in the international art world.

Congratulations to you and Carlos on the exhibition. How did the show come about? 

I have been following Carlos’s work for over ten years, since he arrived in Miami. I was so impressed with it, and with the level of intellectualism informing everything he does. We began planning a monograph years ago. And an exhibition, but that takes time. [. . .]

Carlos trained and began his career in Havana and has lived in Miami for many years. From your perspective, what’s the current relationship between the Miami and Havana art scenes? What has changed over the past few years?   

The Havana-Miami art scene has always been dynamic, with artists arriving over the years at different points in their career, and even growing up and going to school in Miami. So Cuban artists have been very dominant in the community.

There are so many artists to name. But to limit it to the Miami scene, certainly masters like Cundo Bermúdez, Manuel Carbonell, and Rafael Soriano have made their mark. And now another generation of recognized artists—like José Bedia, Carlos Luna, Demi and Arturo Rodríguez, Gory, María Martínez-Cañas, María Brito, María Lino (to name a few)—are joined by emerging artists like Jorge Ríos, Aurora Molina, Leonor Anthony, and Rafael Domenech.

Of course, there are many who have exhibited in Miami and have moved elsewhere—Jorge Wellesley, Douglas Argüelles, and Jairo Alfonso among them.

Over the past few years, especially as relations opened up and tourism increased, there has been a remarkable interest in the art on the island. The ability of artists to go back and forth has also enhanced this situation and, in my opinion, added to the success and visibility of the arts. Sandra Ramos, Glexis Novoa, and Carlos Quintana move between both locations, while others exhibit in Miami regularly but live in Havana, including Manuel Fors, José Toirac, Diana Fonseca, and Abel Barroso.

There is incredible exchange, respect, and dialogue among the many artists, most of whom find a Miami exhibition to be a feather in their cap. I am always impressed with exhibitions’ opening receptions, where the artists all come to support their colleagues. It never seems to be competitive, but genuinely supportive. [. . .]

As 2019 begins, how would you describe the position of Cuban art in the contemporary art world?

I think every year there is more and more attention to Havana internationally, with international travel surpassing American travel because of the difficulties we face politically. On the art fair circuit, it seems that every year more Cuban artists are represented by galleries, increasing their reputation and accessibility. Since Miami and Miami Beach are home to the majority of Cuban artists and collectors outside the island, Art Basel Miami Beach in particular is an opportunity to see this work within an international market context.

[Image above: Carlos Estévez, “Optometry of the Invisible,” Tucson Museum of Art.]

For full interview and a stunning array of Cuban artwork, go to

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