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“Underground Galleries” Erupting in Havana 12 November, 2018

“Underground Galleries” Erupting in Havana

Studio 8 Alternative Space in Havana ARTempoCuba

For the last couple of years, the contemporary art scene in Havana has been like an erupting volcano. During the 12th Havana Biennial in 2015, many Cuban artists shut-out by the official programming of the Biennial created their own collateral projects in alternative spaces the bought or rented for that purpose.  The success of some of those indie/alternative spaces inspired the artists to continue programming them with collaborations with invited artists, chats among artists where art-lovers, students, and collectors could participate, and of course to exhibit their works on and between their walls. These are not galleries, because, in Cuba, private art galleries are not allowed. Therefore these indie/alternative spaces are “underground” galleries.

An eruption of Independent-Alternative new spaces with innocuous names like Arsenal Habana, Aveces Art Space, El Apartamento, El Local, Studio 8, Taller Chullima, Taller Galería Gorría, to mention a few. They are called Alternative Spaces by habaneros because their eclectic programs and their free-wheeling management show an autonomy uncommon to the official establishment of Cuban Art, until now. So, by definition, they become the alternative to the official few galleries existed all managed and controlled by the government.

Freed from the strictures, hierarchical rosters and pecking-orders of the official galleries the new indie/alternative spaces’ are branching out beyond just fine arts, into design, new media, and to supporting the development of new emergent voices from inside Cuba, and welcoming home artists who haven’t exhibited on the island in decades.  The initiative has been taken by the artists who opened their private workplaces to invite colleagues, emerging artists, or Cuban artists living outside the country, who don’t belong to any governmental gallery’s rosters. They later seek the help of some curators and art lovers who involved in the projects, and today they have assumed serious work on art exhibitions, live performances, dossier presentations, and even the participation of Cuba on internationals Art Fairs and events. The spaces are so new and spontaneous that even among them there have significant differences.

Studio 8, for example, in the house of Juan Carlos Alom, named among the best Latin-American photographers, function as a dialogue and interchange space between photographers of any generations and latitudes. In the Alom’s basement in Havana, you can see the best of the photography made in the city.

Arsenal Habana, on the other hand, located on an antique building with views of the Capitol, has become the place of an assiduous exhibition of Cuban art made in or out of the Island, and where foreign artists step by to share their creation with the Cuban public.

A different perspective has Taller Galería Gorría, which scoop as a Community Project on the San Isidro neighborhood in Old Havana. This space had been an exhibition platform for the very young artist but also had impacted the members of the community with their quarterly Art Festival where fine arts, literature, and music are the centers of the program.

Taller Galería Gorría Havana ARTempoCuba

Taller Galería Gorría. San Isidro Neighborhood


If you are an artist or an art lover traveling to Havana, please don’t skip the opportunity to visit the Alternative Spaces in the city where the contemplation of the contemporary arts can teach more about Cuban society than any other experience.

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