Havana’s exciting cultural scene stretches far wider than its vibrant music scene – the visual arts are also alive and well
Havana is well-known for its music, but what many people don’t realise is that its visual arts also demonstrate the excitement and buzz of this most lively of cities. Painting and drawing, sculpture and installations, films and videos of all types – they are an intrinsic part of the city’s creative hum.
Some of this vibe can be seen on the website of Havana Cultura, a global cultural initiative presented by Havana Club rum (havana-cultura.com) to profile all types of artists and to showcase their work to a wider audience.
Of the ones to watch, Duvier Del Dago is certainly one of the most exciting artists on this emerging scene. Originally noted for his drawings on semi-transparent nylon, creating comic-book style characters who eventually began to develop a narrative of their own, he now works on installations, especially pieces in thread. For instance Castles in the Air (2004) had cameras and mobile phones dangling just out of reach. “The ephemeral character of my pieces is important,” he says. “It’s like I’m weaving my own dreams.”
Then there’s conceptual artist Wilfredo Prieto. Prieto is famous for his public interventions, such as his notorious park-based work “Walking the Dog and Eating Shit”, where human excrement was added to the entirely familiar dog shit. The idea is to look at his work and ask “what’s missing” or to find the element of unexpected among the familiar. For instance, in his best-known work, Apolitico (2001) the flags of 30 countries are flown in different colours to normal.
Making waves in the film world is Pavel Giroud – who is often referred to as the “Cuban Truffaut”. This 35-year-old filmmaker started as a designer and painter, before moving into video installation, advertising, music videos and short films. Sometimes, he says, he misses the days when he did all the work himself.
His most famous film to date, La Edad de la Peseta (The Silly Age, 2006) about a 10-year-old boy, was widely acclaimed. His current project, Omerta, is a study of ageing – and is about a bodyguard for the mob who finds his services no longer wanted after the 1959 Cuban revolution.
One of the most significant events from Havana Cultura in the UK is the release of a new double CD – Gilles Peterson presents Havana Cultura. The cover for this CD set is designed by painter and sculptor Alexandre Arrechea. He has taken local Havana power structures and architecture as the theme behind this artwork.
If you go to guardian.co.uk/havana-club, you’ll find information about some of the best-known artists, plus other useful information on Cuban arts events in the UK. And there’s also find out how to enter a competition for a fantastic chance to visit the city of Havana for yourself.