Self-government in the Cuban art market: a necessary good? – OnCubaNews | Candle Made Easy

Apart from the material needs, every Cuban visual artist who starts his career has to overcome a whole series of logistical and organizational problems typical of the art market, difficulties that are multiplied in our context.

We talk about managing social networks and advertising, finding sponsors or funds for exhibitions, managing sales in galleries or directly with art dealers, among other issues related to economic, legal and organizational aspects. All of these are normal processes for any artist wishing to position themselves appropriately in a relatively competitive and efficient art market.

In Cuba, the artist often resorts to self-management of several of these operations and almost always the economic question is the justification evident in any debate about it, although the problem goes beyond a mere saving of resources or a personal interest of the artist, all to monopolize work related to his career.

Two talks were recently held in Havana related to the Cuban art market and artist self-government as a resource within the country’s visual arts environment. It was attended by artists, specialists, curators and other people connected with the work of this artistic manifestation on the island.

The visit of the Frenchman Jean Minguet, economist and specialist in contemporary art, part of the Artprice.com platform team, specialized in analyzing the global art market, gave us an overview of how the international art market is moving without, as expected, going into much detail about national specificities. The meeting led to further visits by specialists to gallery spaces in the Cuban capital.

Artprice is a private company that manages invaluable information on price, market, econometrics and contemporary art trends, aspects virtually unknown to those trying to advance the almost non-existent Cuban art market.

Familiarizing yourself with the twists and turns of the modern art market is a task for specialists in this field, a somewhat complicated matter for those who devote themselves exclusively to these subjects, let alone for an artist whose main function is creation, with all the preparations and vicissitudes that the process itself entails.

Therefore, self-government, apart from being an achievement or a livelihood mechanism for the Cuban creator, often becomes a problem (yet another) that many Cuban artists accustomed to the extra workload have to contend with.

In a way, Minguet’s presentation served to make us aware again of the need to structure a national market and, more importantly, to train specialists capable of realizing a solid structure worthy of the Cuban name Art outside of Cuba supports without excluding the economic question that still exists.

Shortly thereafter, this meeting of the French specialist triggered another panel on the artist as self-manager in the country’s visual arts scene, this time with the participation of Cuban artists as guests, who presented their experiences and important questions related to the artist-manager issue.

That Galeria Maxima Room welcomed Rafael Villares, Duvier del Dago, Douglas Perez Castro and Luis Enrique Camejowho, in addition to an anecdote of personal experiences at work and the vicissitudes of her career, touched on other important points from the previous meeting with Minguet at the theater of the National Museum of Fine Arts (MNBA), which may still be outstanding.

From left to right: Douglas Pérez, Luis Enrique Camejo, Duvier del Dago and Rafael Villares in a panel on self-government in the Cuban art market. Photo: courtesy of Galería Máxima.

The room, moderated by young specialist Karla Ochoa, graduate and professor of art history, served to address the controversy over the convenience or inconvenience of the logistical work undertaken by artists, apart from their creative process and the impact of these related tasks to bring -site creation.

Although the same economic situation has led more and more artists to adopt different organizational roles in their careers, in the long run this becomes a disadvantage for the full development of the creator, who has to distance himself somewhat from his creative work by taking on other tasks .

It should be noted that sometimes the creative process surrounding a work or exhibition is also enriched when the artist decides to take on some of the curating or assembling of the pieces, the moderator at the meeting pointed out, a process that supports the creation of young people starting their careers in art, in addition to getting to know other processes in parallel and after the creation of the artwork.

In this context, Duvier del Dago, who also works as a professor at the Higher Institute of Art (ISA), addressed the need for the artist to also know a little about more intellectual processes or those related to criticism and writing texts, Apart from the theoretical training at the Academy, which requires greater interaction between the humanities faculties and ISA, as part of the enrichment of future professionals, both theorists and artists-in-training.

Regarding the different paths to self-managed sponsorship, the panelists said that there is no single path or “little book” to follow. The anecdotes and personal references mentioned during the meeting, which lasted more than an hour, showed that artists have to walk an arduous path when they seek financing for their work, for the creation of a painting, a sculpture, a performance, an installation and other creative ways.

On the other hand, Adrian Socorroone of the artists present in the audience, pointed out that greater guidance and support from the country’s institutions is essential, especially for artists living in the province, especially self-taught, who are even doubly disadvantaged than the creators who make the have gone through the relevant education pyramid.

In the case of the island’s plastic arts institutions, they are better off taking on their logistical work – often expensive – where the artist ultimately bears the costs related to the preparation of an exhibition, making proper management by this type of institution even more difficult.

On the other hand, a larger sales opportunity or efficient sales management would break even and promote the infrastructure of the Cuban art market, which is currently almost exclusively dependent on it foreign capitalalthough the country’s fine arts authorities should take more care in preserving this artistic legacy that has been passed on to other countries over the decades.

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In this context, Douglas commented on his experience in Holland, where he explained that, beyond a question of money, the European nation was interested in preserving its own heritage through the purchase and preservation of works by local artists, an initiative initiated by Cuba could learn.

Aside from the collection valued by the MNBA and the stewardship of the National Council of Plastic Arts and the Cuban Fund of Cultural Assets, the country’s galleries should have greater circulation of the catalog of their works and provide more opportunities for the public to view the country’s existing collections to get to know, in particular what is appreciated in relation to contemporary Cuban art, where the creation of a museum that preserves the latest Cuban creations of recent times is more than necessary.

At the same time, more preparation of art market specialists is urgently needed if one wants to carry out a competent market project today, because art history graduates often go out into the “real” world after completing their studies with many questions, in a context in which the The figure of the art dealer or curator is almost taboo in a country where private gallery space still lacks legal power.

Although the legal recognition of open studios has allowed artists some economic independence and self-government of their projects, these are small spaces for the dissemination of their work and should not spread more than gallery spaces, where there is – or should be – an entire work team, around Supporting creators in their intention to enter the market and connecting them to other avenues for future exhibitions and projects. This was highlighted by Camejo Vento in his presentation, adding that not many artists are lucky enough to come into a space like Máxima, which helps the artist in matters that are a bit outside of his work.

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Spaces like this panel are necessary to question where the future of the national market should go after several years of trying to finally take off, he stressed Villaresone of the Cuban artists who recently participated in the Venice Biennale 2022who referred to the fact that more needs to be done for art made in Cuba to reach more homes, in a desire shared by many and which they hope will not take long to be fulfilled.

Yoel Rodríguez Tejeda

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