A Pandora’s Box effect could describe the definite entrance of Cuban visual arts to the top circuit of the international art market. Once the Box is open... you know the rest of the tale and the metaphor relates to the idea that once Cuban fine arts finally echoed in the red carpet, it would be it. Allegedly the momentum depends on the Americans and lately political tensions have gone in crescendo. Did the glorious shift ever happen? Is this an ongoing process or did it just stop as soon as the U.S. - Cuba disagreement relaunched?
A prelude to a Pandora’s Box could describe the late scenery in Cuban visual arts relating to the international art market. Of course the difference is that the outcome of this Pandora’s Box effect did not come undesirable as it was in the ancient Greek myth.
Never before Cuban based artists grossed real world profits. Suddenly other artists who had been working in their studios in Europe advised the scene and decided to be more active in Havana. Many came back and opened their spaces in Havana. This is definite, the change is here, they would talk openly about it, but then inside and outside the Island things got shady.
Cuban curator Gerardo Mosquera accompanying Ella Cisneros, a top bidder and supporter of Cuban visual arts in recent times.
Is the U.S. - Cuba political disagreement deterring the international art market excitement that MR. Omaba ignited?
Remember the Pandora’s Box effect? Remember the saying that once it is open, that’s it? Perhaps not so definite, or maybe it did. Did it really launch? Is the 10X increase in artists being represented by international galleries an indicator that there is a definite shift?
In any event, yes. The increasing tension between the U.S. and the Island does affect everything (apart from those who keep running the Island). Notwithstanding the ignition that the 2014 ease of tensions brought in (and the subsequent flashy episodes of celebrities stepping in and buying from the artists’ studios and from newly private galleries) made a huge contribution in the artists managing behavioral and right there is the most significant turning point.
You got to show off, and you got be presentable for the big thing! That’s exactly being ready to break through.
Besides quality or artistic merit, Cuban visual artists had to learn how to get in shape for the big moment. Traditionally they had developed an unbelievable groundwork. Over the years they had been praised about the excellence of their artistic proposals, the technique, the theory and concepts, they are incredible painters, sculptors, mixed media artists, but in the XXI Century the art business industry digs way beyond the measurable quality of the work.
Organizing your productive routines, working as an enterprise, leveraging your brand, your team of assistants, getting your shows presented at the quality that top audiences in the international art bazaar demand, are all very important steps to enter the game and it is a huge deal. It's been a long way that made high-quality Cuban art projects and artists become way much suitable to the red carpet.
Yes, American tourists did have to stop coming en masse. But beyond any political inquisitorial ruling, there has always been the possibility to lawfully be active in the art trade with Cuba. The Embargo imposed by the U.S. over Cuba has no effect on European collectors deciding to buy or to come visit Cuba. Even to an American collector, there is no sanction that could affect them for buying art from Cuba. It is well known and documented that fine arts are a privileged and lawful commodity to trade with since 1989, when American courts made clear on the Cernuda case that the Embargo would not affect the arts commercialization with the United States of North America. Big win for the Cuban visual arts!
A definite turning point?
Despite the revived tensions between the U.S. and Cuba, and the decrease of the American tourism supply that contributed to moved up the market, estamos bien (we are ok).
On the edge of this new era of art validation and unprecedented marketability mechanisms, Cuban artists en masse have for the first time the full potential of finding new ways out the inner censorship as well as fresher ways around the worldwide distribution elite gears.
Thanks to the latest, but now endangered interchange with the American people, Cuban visual artists were able for several years to get updated about the commercial practices in the art market mainstream. It was an intensive refresher course and it helped artists and independent art managers to path their own way out of old labels and stereotypes, that sickening scene that a decade before could be described as follow:
"There is a pattern that frightens artists with the no granting of attention if they leave Cuba, but at times if they stay in the Island the market denies them the full attention their work deserves. It's part of the morbid cycle that sickened the circulation of the Cuban fine arts in the international market. It is an effect created by the perfect conjunction of external speculative forces and the internal despotism and its lack of coherence."
Rolando Vázquez, interdisciplinary artist with a focus on religion and politics, he was a titular professor for over a decade at the prestigious San Alejandro Art School in Havana, Cuba. His work delivers an exquisite outline of what defines the Cuban sociological outcome. The comment dates from a decade ago (2009), and it is a perfect description of a good set of stereotypes that Cuban visual arts continue to contest.
After half a century of internal ostracism and the subsequently external biases, Cuban visual arts tradeoff is not determined anymore by content circumstances like a U.S. President's gracious gesture toward the Government of the Island.
With a diversified menu of choices, international collectors can access the Cubans thanks to the up-to-date mechanisms available in the XXI Century art industry. In this day and age Cuban artworks circulate and are accessible in an unprecedented way, and that’s due to the postmodern era art validation schemes.
Observing what seems to be the country with the most artists per capita in the world, a fine art collector visiting Cuba or buying remotely could be assisting now to an ongoing sight comparable to a Pandora’s Box opening. The difference is that a promising outcome here opposes what the ancient Greek myth relates, so perhaps a net dollar worth of Cuban fine art in 2020 is set to grow at increasing rates.
Note: this corresponds to the peak of the travel sanctions from President Trump administration to Cuba in late 2019.