Art Exhibition: “Towers and Tombs” (Belkis Ayón and the Twin Towers)


In “Belkis and the Twin Towers: In Havana, 2 Anniversaries on 9/11,” Cuban Art News explains that, with never-exhibited works, the exhibition “Towers and Tombs”—which includes work by Belkis Ayón and photographer José A. Figueroa—marks the artist’s death in 1999 and the 2001 attack in New York. The exhibition is at Estudio Figueroa-Vives and the Norwegian Embassy in Havana, Cuba. Cuban Art News interviews curator Cristina Vives (who also curated Nkame: A Retrospective of Cuban Printmaker Belkis Ayón). See excerpts below:

At Estudio Figueroa-Vives and the Norwegian Embassy in Vedado, the exhibition Towers and Tombs pairs previously unseen work by Belkis Ayón with never-exhibited photographs of New York in days after the attack in 2001. Curator Cristina Vives previews the show in a conversation with Cuban Art News.

First, congratulations again on curating the exhibition Nkame: A Retrospective of Cuban Printmaker Belkis Ayón. It opened in Los Angeles in 2016 and is still touring the United States.

Yes, it’s still traveling. In January and February it will be at the Chicago Cultural Center. That’s an important stop for the show. But not only that—in 2021 it will jump the Atlantic to open at the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid. That’s going to be a high point in the tour.

This is not the first exhibition of Belkis’s work that you’ve curated.

No, no, no. The first time I curated her work was in Italy in 1992, when she was still alive. We’re talking many years ago. And several times after that.

Before we talk about the new show, give us a little background on Nkame.

It was shown for the first time at the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles in 2016. Then it came to El Museo del Barrio in New York in 2017. It’s a big show, put together as a retrospective. [. . .]

Now we come to the show that you will open next week.

This is going to be dedicated, of course, to Belkis, because it’s the 20th anniversary of her death. That happened September 11, 1999. It’s also going to be dedicated to Katia Ayón, who approved this commemorative show, but couldn’t be here with us to see it.

The show will mix two elements, two topics. Belkis died on September 11. Two years later, Figueroa [photographer José A. Figueroa, Vives’s partner in Estudio Figueroa-Vives] was here in New York for Shifting Tides: Cuban Photography After the Revolution, a show that had opened at the Grey Art Gallery at NYU the day before the attack.

He did an impressive series of work, but not about the drama of the people running or the death and the ruins. He was walking New York, September 11th, 12th, 13th—until the 15th. Photographing just the emptiness. Because New York was, for the first time in its life, an empty city. [. . .]

[Image above: Belkis Ayón, Printing plate for “My Vernicle o tu amor me condena,” 1998. Source: Cuban Art News.]

Four full article and interview, see

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