In the early 2000s, a brand new initiative pursued the takeover of the Cuban visual art market in the international arena. Subasta Habana (in English Havana Auction) was launched in 2002 as a clear intent to setup a reliable reference for the valuation of Cuban fine arts in the global art bazaar.
Today not to our full shame, we can find ourselves revisiting what it was meant to be Subasta Habana, and discover that it came up as a virtuous commercial operation for at least some part of the game. Unfortunately, we shall summarize that Subasta Habana ended up defeated by uncertain causes after 12 consecutive editions.
Passing five years since the last 2014 Subasta Habana, we are in this post somehow triggered by the unanswered questions generated as a consequence of the auction disappearance. Nevertheless, we choose to revisit the public sale with a not question-solving approach but instead, we keep the interrogations unsolved and share with you some positive facts about the original editions.
Yet we want to accommodate you around a brief recount of several of those truths that anticipated the fainting of an event that existed aimed the assembly of a reference for the estimation of our Cuban visual arts.
To fuel (or clear) up the mystery, here we share some of the available information about Subasta Habana and its occurrence in the course of several of the earliest 12 total editions.
2002- 2007 the five years courtship period
In a study of 2007 by Cuban Economist Freddy Monasterio, he concluded that “… the event was showing proven financial solvency…” and that from its first version in 2002 to the 2007 edition, the best auction results were reached in 2004. The total of the best-ranked auction was then calculated at $ 821,432.39 US dollars, although the official number was in Convertible Cuban Pesos, also known as CUC, which was 714.646,18 CUC (the exchange rate equals 0.87 CUC cents to 1.00 US Dollar).
The above graphic refers Total Sales (Auction + Income, Physical and Online Modalities until 2006, Currency: CUC).
In his article Influencia de Subasta Habana en el Mercado del Arte Cubano (The role of Subasta Habana on the Cuban art market) Freddy Monasterio explains how the profitability ratios illustrate the commercial success of the auction which “displays very favorable figures”. Also, Monasterio concluded that in “all the editions, a considerable economic benefit had been obtained.”
In the same way, another parameter described outstanding results. From a 70 % sales goal in 2007, the total number of Lots sold reached 61.11 %, an outcome considered exceptional as a metric for this type of event.
The % represent the sold Lots (Physical and Online Modalities until 2006)
Was the ending the experimentation just another chapter of the endless cycle of trial and failure?
The cycle of fatigue was not an unforeseen outcome. Although till 2007 the Subasta Habana experience had been estimated in overall as positive, there were hints of demise.
The anticipation can be linked to several generalities also commented by Freddy Monasterio in his study. Among other problems, the author pointed <<the deficiency in the advertising and marketing mechanisms>> as well as the <<lack of management autonomy due to the absence of a physical space as a headquarter for Subasta Habana, which damages the identity and corporate image of the enterprise>>.
Another forecast scholar analysis of our matter of study would also turn unfavorable. Such was the case of Yahima Balboa’s graduate dissertation Subasta Habana… ¿Fin de la experimentación? (Havana Auction... The end of experimentation?). The 2005 tittle made a clear allusion to the author’s question of whether or not will Subasta Habana stand up like a successful enterprise.
Very much to our regret, the end of the experimentation was not achieved at the time, reaching in consequence Yahima’s epiphany and then resetting the perennial cycle of trial and error that defines almost every Cuba’s State-run initiative.
Although overall there were favorable commercial results, the goal of converting the city of La Habana in a regular host of a great art auction was never close to be achieved.