Cuban Bureaucrats vs. Artists, the May Performance

HAVANA TIMES — Today, May 5th, marks the day that the #00 Havana Biennial is set to begin. UNEAC and the AHS (organizations of artists, writers and creators who are authorized by the Cuban government) published a statement yesterday calling for the official Biennial which will take place in 2019, thereby discrediting this alternative event. Using the same old arguments they always do, they are trying to overshadow the work young artists and promoters have done to organize and put on this event.

Why? What are they afraid of?

Organizers of the #00 Havana Biennial have said that this isn’t a face-off with Cuba’s cultural institutions. Why do culture officials feel intimidated? The event’s crowdfunding campaign has been public, many different people have made contributions, citizens from all over the world and Cubans in and outside the island. Cuban artist Novo even donated a payment the National Council of Visual Arts made to him when they bought one of his works. That is to say, money has come from many different hands, including the government, albeit indirectly. So why are they going to great lengths to make it seem like the opposite is happening?

Why can’t artists and people interested in art come together to put on their own Biennial? It would be in everyone’s best interests, for creators and the State, who doesn’t have to finance the event. Many renowned artists in Cuba haven’t joined this Biennial out of fear, because they believe that nothing can be done without the government’s green light. However, the power to create is ours, it’s everyone’s, all we have to do is be conscious of this and make the most of it for good.

The #00 Havana Biennial begins today. We are on the alert, their statement could be a threat. This phrase: “We won’t allow the Havana Biennial’s name to be tarnished, and we are organizing it, convinced that it will be the authentic popular celebration of contemporary visual art,” makes us think that they are preparing a performance of their own.


Statement from UNEAC and the Hermanos Saiz Association

On April 6th, the 13th edition of the Havana Biennial was scheduled to take place between April 12th and May 12th 2019. Ever since last September, we have been supporting the Ministry of Culture’s decision to delay, among other events, the Havana Biennial until 2019, due to Hurricane Irma’s impact on the island but we have already summoned this event and its conceptual platform is public.


UNEAC and the Hermanos Saiz Association (AHS) have made their own call for the most important visual arts event in Cuba and one of the most famous in the world. Our artists will appreciate the fact that the 13th Havana Biennial will take on a more inclusive nature by including more inquisitive and experimental avant-garde works. This is possible thanks to the close relationship established between creators and institutions, who together, over decades, have managed to put the Havana Biennial among the Cuban public’s favorite, as well as that of thousands of friends worldwide.

As a result, we reject any attempt to hinder or manipulate the organization of arts institutions and projects of artists here in Cuba and in other countries which are in progress right now getting ready for the 8th Havana Biennial. We denounce the self-proclaimed #00 Biennial, which is hiding behind a demagogic and cynical phraseology and is being organized with funds from the counter-revolution’s mercenaries, whose only goal is to discredit the institutional system, to confuse artists and create the right breeding ground to promote enemy interests here in Cuba against the revolutionary work that the Havana Biennial, as well as other great popular events, have undertaken and promoted.

Very few people have joined this abomination of a Biennial, without any important works mostly, who, maliciously or confused, are after the fame that this mercenary platform and overexposure on social media can give them. They have announced that it will be held at non-important venues and is only a failed attempt to attack the government’s cultural policy, where quite a few of them are skirting the law. They want to mislead artists, who have institutional support, so that they use their studios in an attempt to provoke the government.

Like we said last September: “No malicious comment, no distortion of Cuban cultural policy, no lie created by unprincipled people, will make artists lose their faith in a social process that art and culture have defended as one of the most noble achievements of our Revolution.”

And today, we add the following: We won’t allow the Havana Biennial’s name to be tarnished, and we are organizing it, convinced that it will be the country’s authentic popular celebration of contemporary visual art.

UNEAC and the Hermanos Saiz Association.