Subasta Habana (Havana Auction) and Bienal de La Habana (Havana Biennale) were two events that aligned with most of the past two decades happenings in terms of Cuban art commercializing. With their epicenters right here in Havana, Cuba, both State-run initiatives played an essential role in the Island’s visual art entering the international art market, but how do the two events have managed their legacy in the midst of the new times?
After the climax, there is always a relief. That’s precisely the case for Subasta Habana. Once the numbers started to play right, and even collectors from other geographies brought their pieces to Havana for auction, all began to go rocky. As two symmetrical parts of an identical structure, the same sort of distresses that seized Havana Auction allegedly has foot marked the Havana Biennale through the recent years.
The beginning and end of a glorious brand
For Havana Auction, there was a whole well-thought-out apparatus of operations. It was a courageous enterprise; there was a website full of information with an online auction platform, and an entire perfect campaign that overtime would be able to cast and create a distinctive brand, but astonishingly none of that exists anymore.
Subasta Habana (Havana Auction) entered into the shadows several years ago. The last official edition dates from 2014.
The first Havana art auction took placed in 2002, and it maintained its operations for over 10 years until an alleged institutional vast black piece of cloth tampered the gathering of Cuban art collectors. After 2014 and with a no official or declared reason, the annual event seized its occurrence. A while later even the online presence of the auction and the remaining of its virtual branding was wiped out of the cyberspace.
Allegedly there are plans for a flashy return of the Havana Auction. It’s said that is somehow a discussed matter in the subterranean Cuban State-run cultural decision rooms, but at least as we speak, no announcements had been officially made about the return of the Havana auction.
Havana Biennale, an another almost dead event?
<< When they ask, it’s hard to make them understand. Bienal de La Habana (Havana Biennale) is much more complex to understand than what any logic from an outsider could reasonably assimilate.>>. The previous comment was apropos to a recent conversation about the 2019 Havana Biennale and its current agenda. But how does this kind of statement contrast with others' views that celebrate the event as a still vigorous Biennale comparable to any other top-level international venue?
The 2015 Havana Biennale was unquestionably a sparkling edition, with the attendance of many remarkable projects that were in accordance matched by a joyful north american crowd that arrived in Havana motivated by the 2014 improvement in the Cuba- United States relations.
Essentially the polarization is valid, and it occurs as a result of an authentic incongruence between what the event used to be and the internal contradictions that came to define the last Havana gathering in 2019. Despite of what we were assisting to see here was art, there is a solid selection but not executed through art theory, aesthetic or artistic parameters; what we saw was eminently fabricated as a response to, for instance, an independent event called Biennale 00, a proscribed 2018 independent Biennale that some artists tried to promote and that ended up being a totally censured event.
Among other comments it's also pointed out that the curatorial schedule for the 2019 Havana Biennale carried out a political statement about Decreto 349, a 2018 new rule allegedly resembling the worst time during the 1970's cultural repression in Cuba.
However, whether or not Bienal de La Habana is a stamp of its 1984 original edition, we can comfortably say that at least it maintains a more or less stable occurrence. The average frequency of every two years was lapsed for double the time since the 2015 edition, and this 2019 the Havana Biennale happily occurred.
Enhancements and renaissances
In opposition to Havana Auction, the Havana Biennale is still an ongoing living organism. Besides all concernings, valid or exaggerated, the event is legit and more or less vibrant amidst its imperfections.
On the other hand, the once glamorous Havana Auction and its today’s nonexistence, demands a reappearance and that's being suggested through the desire of the public, collectors and those that in general are interested in Cuban art for sale. It is a shared opinion for Cuban artists, curators, critics and visual art experts, that celebrating Havana Auction is an event that complements the Havana Biennale and that the two happenings would signify very important andc and complementary reference of validation for the Cuban fine art in the international art market.
Considering the actual schematic management of the mechanisms implemented by the State and its work running the events, it would be advisable to reconsider the reach, role and expertise of the Cuban institutions organizing the shows.
Explaining the surreal is not up to others’ great intentions, but perchance up to one’s determination. Here are the facts, so they can only be presented in a more or less curated objective perspective, and leave it up to the individual appreciation.
The surrealism of the Cuban case has no limits, and part of it is that, although the tremendous data reflecting that there is a necessity to transitioning to independent managing initiatives, in 2018 arises a document like Decree 349 (Decreto 349) that regulates, among many other things, the sanctions to private or independent art galleries, initiatives that were left without a clear legal context and on the verge of a very political and oppressive system regarding "who" and "what" can be showed at the exhibition space.
The importance of infusing modern and better practices in the inefficient commercializing internal oficial apparatus that today dictates in Cuba all the aspects involved in making a Cuban art acquisition, is ignored on daily basis. As it was previously mentioned, the surrealism has no limits.
And that's it, in the Cuban scene the approach to almost everything in terms of visual art commercialization, is still framed by the same old sensitivities that have nothing to do with the art sensitivities. It is very clear that the described circumstances reflected on the disappearance of Subasta Havana (Havana Auction) and the allegedly poorly executed most recent 2019 Bienal de La Habana (Havana Biennale 2019).