Is Cuba the Next Art-World Hot Spot?

Yoan Capote, Married, mixed media on canvas, (2004). Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman.

In the aftermath of president Obama’s bombshell announcement this week that the U.S. and Cuba would be diplomatically reunited, a wide array of American mega-corporations, from banks and telecommunications companies to fast-food chains and retail conglomerates, lined up to make bids to do business with the Caribbean island nation of 11 million. The art world, too, has been focused on developments this week, weighing in on all sorts of prospects for the future of the art and artists of Cuba.

As noted in a recent report in the Wall Street Journal, the art world already has a head start in the inevitable surge in economic and cultural interaction between the U.S.and its neighbor. U.S. collectors have been engaged with Cuban art for years due to a little-known loophole in the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba that allowed the import and export of “cultural assets,” a category in which art works found a safe haven. Cuban artists also have been insulated from the embargo and have enjoyed relative freedom of movement (see “How Will the New U.S.-Cuba Ties Affect the Art World?”).

Artists and artist teams, such as Kcho, Los Carpinteros, Yoan Capote, and Wilfredo Prieto, have received a great deal of international attention in recent years, and travel abroad frequently. Prices for their works are steadily on the rise. Works by Cuban masters, such as Wilfredo Lam, generate sizable sums at auction. In 2012, Lam’s 1944 canvas Idol sold at Sotheby’s in New York, for $4.6 million, a record auction price for the artist. Since its inauguration in 1984, the Habana Biennial has become a must on the international art-world circuit draw for Cuba; the exhibition is routinely included on many critics’ lists of the world’s most important international art biennials (see “World’s Top 20 Bienials, Triennials anmd Miscennials“). Will we soon see Art Basel Havana? What about NADA Habana?




Wifredo Lam, Idol, 1944, sold for $4.6 million at Sotheby’s in 2012.



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