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Cuba in talks for cultural exchange with US museum

The Bronx Museum is planning an exhibition at the 2015 Havana Biennial and could host a show of work by the Caribbean country’s artists

The Palace of the Asturian Center, where the National Fine Arts Museum in Havana is showing “African American Artists and Abstraction”. Photo: The Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Cuba is in talks with the Bronx Museum to organise the first major exhibition by a US museum in the country, according to local reports. The show would be part of the 12th edition of the Havana Biennial next year, and could be followed by an exhibition in New York in 2016 that would feature work by Cuban artists. The Bronx Museum was not available for comment.

The director of the National Fine Arts Museum in Havana, Ana Cristina Perera, announced the cultural exchange during the 1 August opening of “African American Artists and Abstraction”, an exhibition in Cuba that includes work by nine American artists. During her opening remarks, Perera emphasised the role of culture in “breaking barriers imposed by governments that have nothing to do with the will of the artists”, the EFE news agency reports.

The long-standing US trade embargo against Cuba does not include art and it has become easier for American art professionals to visit the Caribbean country since 2009, when the Obama administration softened travel restrictions. Around 80 curators, artists and intellectuals from the US attended the opening for the exhibition in Havana last Friday.

The potential participation of an American museum in the Havana Biennial indicates a slow but steady shift in the exhibition’s identity. The first Bienal de la Habana opened in 1984 and only included artists from Latin America and the Caribbean. The next editions expanded to include artists from Africa and Asia and the biennial became known for showcasing “non-Western” artists. But throughout the 1990s, it slowly began to include artists from Europe and North America. By the 2012 edition, it included artists from 45 countries, however only one was from the US.

The 12th edition of the Havana Biennial will take place from 22 May to 22 June 2015.

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