Cuban art

Before leaving for Paris I had the chance to give a talk on Latin American art in Tucson. While preparing I spent some time browsing Google Images for fun. One of my favorite Cuban painters is the expressionist Tomas Sanchez, I like the lusciousness of how he paints forests.


Here is another Sanchez. Manuel Mendive has a more primitivist style, here is my favorite Mendive. If you would like something more avant-garde, try Jose Bedia.

Here is one place to buy some reasonably priced Cuban art.

And how about the economics in Cuba?

State-run galleries sell selected works to tourists and pay artists a percentage, but successful artists like Sandra Ramos and The Carpinteros (Dagoberto Rodriques and Marco Castillo) prefer to deal directly with collectors, inviting them into their homes and studios where they do business in dollars that allow them to support their entire families. The opening week of the biennial is a feeding frenzy of foreign buying with collectors arriving in tours organised by US museums or European travel agencies. (The US allows importation of Cuban art and educational materials.)
With such considerable interest in the biennial, the State has been quick to recognise the potential of the market: an art auction at the biennial raised more than $100,000 to benefit a children’s cancer hospital, with an anonymous collector from Monaco paying $11,000 for a drawing by Kcho, an artist whose signature motif is a simple boat that might be interpreted as an allusion to Cubans’ efforts to escape the island. Somehow Kcho has been co-opted as a quasi-official artist, painting backdrops for Castro speeches and occupying a huge government house.

The bottom line: Censorship or not, if you tax everything else heavily, a good deal of talent will go into the art market. Alex and I wrote about this in our paper An Economic Theory of Avant-Garde and Popular Art, or High and Low Culture (PDF).


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