You’ve got until June 9 to see Cuban sculptor Alexandre Arrechea’s No Limits on Park Avenue in Manhattan. More deets here.
A 2012 sculpture by Alexandre Arrechea sits in the art deco lobby of the former headquarters of Bacardí Rum, built in the 1930s by architects Castells, Fernandez, and Menendez. (All photos by San Suzie.)
As just about anybody with a Gucci-clad toe in the art industry knows by now, the 11th Havana Biennial opened earlier this month to great fanfare and much speculation about what the month-long exhibit and its accompanying onslaught of American visitors means for the future of cultural relations between Cuba and the United States. Titled Artistic Practices and Social Imaginaries, the biennial is an ambitious citywide project that has attracted a host of likely and unlikely collaborators to produce Cuba’s most important collective exhibit in a decade.
As can be expected of anything artsy held in sunny, big-c Communist climes, the week of the opening was lively and crowded. The international jetset-ati parachuted into one of the oldest ports in the Americas to enjoy installations, performances, rum-fueled parties, dalliances with local working girls and a froufrou culinary-art collaboration that would cost the average Cuban a year’s salary for dishes like yuzu sailfish and guava maki. There was also so much frenzied art buying that the city seemed more like Miami Beach during art fair season than a biennial “born in the heat of a strong and vigorous national art movement.” (Or so says the breathy official website.)
In countless ways, the Havana Biennial is like most others — a bunch of art stuff thrown together in one place — and therefore held few aesthetic surprises. But it rises above the rest for the way in which the organizers have used the city’s sublime historic buildings and urban spaces. Havana was once the most important mercantile port to Spain and later the closest trading partner to the United States. Because of this, and also because the revolution halted the sort of late 20th century glass-tower development that has decimated historic neighborhoods around the world, the city retains a significant number of extraordinary buildings. Ranging in style from Spanish baroque to Art Nouveau, Neoclassical, Art Deco, and Modern, these buildings make Havana something of a living architectural museum of the Western Hemisphere.
The biennial highlights these locales and makes it possible to visit some that are usually closed to the public. There is the 18th century Spanish fortress that serves as the biennial’s main venue, as well as a crumbling Modernist ballet school and the decayed early 20th century neighborhoods used as backdrop by urban muralists. The art is nice. Some of it is thought-provoking — even enthralling. But it’s Havana’s five centuries of historic architecture that is definitely the star of this show.
The Havana Biennial is on through June 11, 2012. Plenty of pix after the jump.
Elastic Time, 2010, by Alexandre Arrechea at the L.A. Municipal Art Gallery, through April 18. (Photo by San Suzie.)
- Art historians remaining mum on whether alleged Degas plaster casts are for real.
- On the restoration of the Met’s shattered Tullio: How conservators are laboring (in secret) to revive the almost-dead.
- Rich people and their rich people schemes: Asher Edelman to guarantee prices for art headed to auction.
- Will the art market ever return to what it was in the early millennium? A report in the Art Newspaper predicts that “2010 will be a year of continued reshaping: auctions will remain smaller, private sales will be the preferred method of selling for the majority of collectors, the ‘best of the best’ will garner significant interest and sell well, and second- and third-tier works will be left unsold or see further price reductions.” The short answer, in other words, is…No.
- The Jenny Holzer temporary tattoo set. (Art Fag City.)
- Beer bottle man.
- The seriously-gnarly cut-paper pieces of Charles Clary. (Arts Journal.)
- Pure awesomeness: The San Francisco artist soap box derby of 1975. My favorites: the hand holding a pencil, the recliner and the one with all the dildos.
- Famous literary drunks and addicts. (Coudal.)
- Sorta related…Art for Stoners: A round-up of animated GIFs. (ackackack.)
- Disco ball.
- In praise of online obscurity.
- How Amazon tried to screw Macmillan so it could sell more Kindles – and, in the process, tried screwing writers even harder. Over the weekend, the retailer was back to selling Macmillan books, but not before issuing a totally grody, self-serving statement.
- Today’s Street Art: The adventures of Shitty Kitty.
- Masking tape street art. (@russelltrombone.)
- Rockefeller Center, playground of Lucifer. Don’t anyone tell Glenn Beck.
- What’s it like to inhabit iconic works of architecture? A series of films at the Storefront for Art & Architecture in NYC explore the question.
- How to suck at Facebook.
Stroll Again, 2008, by Alexandre Arrechea. (Image courtesy of Alexandre Arrechea.)
- Jaydiohead. (elbowtoe.)
- A Flickr set of vintage packaging. (marcjohns.)
- Photographing foreclosure.
- Is the art market less ethical than the stock market? Considering it’s mostly the same people who operate in both, it shouldn’t be surprising if it was.
- The demented superheroes of Peruvian painter Fernando “Huanchaco” Gutierrez.
- Photo Essay: Justine Cooper’s behind-the-scenes shots at the Museum of Natural History. My favorite is #19. (Eco Art Blog.)
- Images from vintage anatomy books.
- Kerry James Marshall takes on a coupla presidents in his new murals at SFMOMA. SF Chronicle story here. (Modern Art Notes.)
- Because too much make-up is never enough: The Rodeo Queens of Stefan Ruiz.
- The Obamas said to be on a contemporary art hunt for the White House. Among the possibilities: Rauschenberg and Ruscha. (Personism.)
- The Whitney has withdrawn its four Madison Avenue brownstones from the real estate market.
- A carbon dioxide map of the U.S. (Eyebeam reBlog.)
- Kaws get (breathlessly) profiled in the L.A. Times.
- Today’s Graff: Sweet Tooth in London.
- Miss Van poupée pins.
- A visual riff on the Oscars and architecture.
- The recession might be good for the architecture of affordable housing.
- The revamped Alice Tully hall better integrates itself into the streets of NYC, reports Looking Around. Plus: reviews from the NY Times and NY Mag.
- Cities of sugar.
- R.I.P. Marvin Rand, architectural photographer.
- Your moment of rodents of unusual size. (Art Fag City.)