Did Cuba Pull Out of the Bronx Museum Deal Because of Trump?

It's only the latest delay in a controversial project.

The National Museum of Fine Arts, Havana. Photo by Roaming the World, via Flickr.

The Bronx Museum of the Arts’ controversial efforts to foster an artistic exchange between that borough and the nation of Cuba appears to have hit a major snag just days after the inauguration of Donald Trump, who has threatened to repeal Barack Obama’s executive order that was to thaw the freeze between the two countries.

The National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana has, at least for now, pulled out of an agreement to lend artworks for an exhibition at the Bronx institution, says the museum, adding that “both institutions remain committed to the partnership and to exploring future loans” from the Havana museum to the Bronx.

“We didn’t get a no from them[,] but we also didn’t get a final yes,” Bronx Museum director Holly Block told the New York Times, so the Bronx Museum will instead mount a show from its own collection, including examples by artists whose works were to be loaned from Cuba. Included in the show will be artists like Tania Bruguera, Los Carpinteros, Kcho, Ana Mendieta, and Wilfredo Prieto. The exhibition opens February 17.

The original, planned initiative included a show of works from the Bronx Museum that traveled to the Havana institution in 2015, and was to see 60 works by Cuban artists come to the Bronx. That initiative, “Wild Noise,” has not itself been without controversy. Several board members resigned in protest, saying, among other claims, that they learned only late in the process that Cuba might not release the works for fear that Cubans living in America who fled Castro’s dictatorship could sue for the objects in return for property expropriated by the Castro regime.

In December 2016, during the exhibition’s planning, came the dramatic announcement by then-President Barack Obama of a diplomatic thaw between the two countries, which was greeted with cautious optimism among Latin American art experts.

But now Donald Trump has taken office, and the Republican has offered shifting pronouncements about whether he would preserve the new opening or reverse it, as the Times reported in November, after the election. On November 4, Trump’s pick for Vice President, Mike Pence, had promised to repeal Obama’s executive order:

Representatives of the Havana museum were not immediately available, and Block told the Times that they did not indicate that the delay or cancellation was due to Trump’s election. Block was also unavailable to comment.

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