By Veronica Fernandez
Recently, in the heat of preparations for the next edition of the Havana International Biennale Arts Festival (March 27 to April 30), I spoke at my job at the Santa Clara de Asis Convent in Old Havana with the renowned Cuban artist Agustín Bejarano.
Bejarano, originally from the eastern Cuban province of Camagüey, takes pride in his native city. Still under 50, he has already acquired full artistic maturity, dedicating himself to his vocation as one of the island’s principal artists of international prestige. His works are among the most sought after and are purchased by the individuals attending his one-person showings and group exhibitions in Cuba and outside the country.
Bejarano spoke to me about the current scarcity in Havana of exhibition spaces for presenting his works and those of other artists.
“Despite there being so many cultural institutions,” he said, “many are closed for repair, others have social objectives that don’t allow them to exhibit artwork, and other facilities just don’t have the space.”
“That’s how things are right now,” asserted the artist, adding that despite this he is confident that the situation will be resolved. “This place where you work is admirable because a tremendous amount of effort has been made for the three of us artists to be setting up our exhibitions here, in spite of the Convent being completely under repair for months,” he said.
“I feel proud to be able to show my works in this Biennale at the former Santa Clara de Asis convent,” said the artist. Built between 1638 and 1643, the compound is the largest and oldest convent in Cuba located on Cuba Street between Sol and Luz streets in the Old Havana district.
I wondered how is it possible that with so little time before the Biennale begins there are still artists, unlike Bejarano, who don’t know where they’re going to display their works?
Those like me who have spent years working in culture know that this is not the first time such a situation has happened. We also know we haven’t -like the song goes- ‘tripped on the same stone twice,’ but a million times.
Despite years of organizing events of such magnitude and importance for our country, why do we continue -as another song goes- ‘falling in the same hole?’ When we will learn how to be better organized? Will we ever do it right?