The National Art Schools of Cuba, designed by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara to provide artistic education to the world's disadvantaged, are located under a collapsed monument in the heart of the capital, Havana. Founded in 1961 as courses that would later serve as school locations, they were designed to "bring cultural competence" to Cuba in the heady days after the revolution. The Cuban government's efforts to strengthen artistic freedom in Cuba in recent years have already been frustrated by a series of attacks on art and cultural institutions, such as the National Museum of Art.
To reduce his international vision, Castro commissioned the Italian artists Garatti, Guevara and Roberto D'Ambrosio, the founder of the National Art Museum in Paris, to build a National Art School to teach Cubans the art of painting, drawing, sculpture, photography and other artistic expressions. The school, founded in 1976, works with teachers to introduce methods and ideas to young Cubans on the island.
The works focus on everyday life in Cuba and show a strongly idealized version of the country's history, culture and economy. The elaborate elements of the Spanish colonial style are more streamlined, as Cuba had much less skilled workers and had to behave itself.
Some artists felt compelled to leave Cuba and produce their art, while others stayed in the United States to create art before it was sponsored by the communist government. The rebirth and expression of Cuban art were greatly influenced by the waning ties to the revolution among Cubans and the loss of the Cuban Revolution.
A new development emerged in Cuba, synthesizing Cuba's naturally Afro-Cuban sensitivities and emerging as an art movement widely recognized as unambiguously Cuban. Cuban artists began to turn their attention to "Cuban roots" and the search for national values in the 1930s, which led to the creation of Cuban art.
In the past, art in Cuba was exposed to unrestricted colonial influences, but this unchallenged past, combined with an informed present, gave rise to the new Cuban art of the decade. Cuban artists who reveal a wealth that has not been achieved in recent years, as well as a new sense of self and identity.
While many artists have emigrated from Cuba to live and work abroad, Adios Utopia focuses on artists who have remained in Cuba and whose careers began after Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution. The 1950s look back on the rise of the Cuban Revolution and its impact on Cuban art and culture.
The film is directed by Mikhail Kalatosov, a Russian, who dramatizes the events before the 1959 revolution in four interconnected stories. After the Cuban Revolution, Salas returned to Cuba, where his iconic black-and-white photographs brought the world closer to Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and other revolutionary leaders.
Although illegally exported or not, the fact is that Cuban art remains in high demand, even though the trade embargo may well be lifted in the near future. As a result, the art world is waiting for the US government's decision to purchase works created by Cuban artists to raise their legal status and allow the repatriation of many stolen and misplaced works. Since the revision of this text in early 1992, many of them have moved to other countries such as the United States, Germany, France and the Netherlands.
To read more about my experiences in Cuba with photos from Cuba, read my notes from my visit in March 2000. In March 2009 I hosted an exhibition of my work at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Havana, Cuba. The gallery on 21st Street Vedado in Havana is one of the most popular galleries in the United States and also the largest in Latin America and the Caribbean.
There, I covered an entire wall with four dozen ceramic plates painted with photographs of Fidel Castro, who loved Cuba in the form of a woman. Luis D'Aguiar checked the artworks I showed for the tour participants. This art institution was founded with the aim of preserving, studying and promoting the country's photographic heritage.
Adios Utopia "was on view for the first time since 1944, when the Museum of Modern Art in New York presented Cuban painters of modernism. Based on a series of photographs of Fidel Castro and his family, it was the only one of its kind in the United States since the 1944 Modern Cuban Painters exhibition when the museum presented it.
This will truly signal a new era in Cuban art and give you an insight into modern Cuban culture. So spend some time exploring the great art of Havana and Cuba, including the museum salons and the available handicrafts. During the day, you can exhibit in the Fabrica de Arte, but in the evening, when Cuba pays homage to Gaudi, you should head to the Sala de la Cienfuegos, one of Havana's most popular bars. At best, this will be a night you will never forget; at worst, you will spend a night in a bar and have a good time.