I had the pleasure of interviewing a fresh young mind in the Cuban art scene, Laura Danaras, who previously worked at Cuba’s prestigious Bellas Artes Museum, and is now curating at a private studio with artist friends in the Miramar section of Havana. To understand what this all means for the blossoming industry on the island, read the full interview (link below). This is just an excerpt:
For American collectors, Cuban art has long been forbidden fruit—largely out-of-reach, somewhat mysterious, and therefore, deeply-seductive. With this spring’s announcement of the normalization of relations between the two countries, there has been a massive surge of interest by collectors, enthusiasts, and, well, us. The Standard set out to get a bead on this exploding corner of the art world by talking to someone on the ground with first-hand expertise. Naturally, our first call was to our man Stan, who put us in touch with Laura Daranas, one of the most talented young art curators in Cuba today.
Up until a few months ago, Laura served as a “Museóloga Especialista” in Cuba’s famous national gallery, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, before striking out to stoke the flames of independent artists. She aims to expose them to worldwide appeal as a curator for a hip “personal studio” (more on this below) in Cuba’s Miramar section (with co-curator Yessi Montes de Oca). In the rush of putting together her first independent show, Laura found time to answer some of our questions.
Jauretsi: Tell us about the new gallery Miramar 601, and the two young Cuban artists who founded it, Alejandro and Aramis? Is this one of the new “cuenta propistas” (small businesses) we hear about? Or is part of the emergence of independent galleries?
Laura Danaras: Independent art galleries are not legal in Cuba. After the economic collapse in the ’90s, artists were allowed to create studios to show and sell their work, which they did and have been doing well before the recent laws came into play. Two artists have their studio at Miramar 601: Alejandro Guanche, a 23-years-old painter who works mostly in a bright and sharp style (addressing historical, erotic, literary or biographical subjects) and Aramis Santos, a 38-years-old painter and draftsman who has had a long career as an illustrator and mastery of different techniques. Both of them show their work regularly at the Wynwood District in Miami. In addition to the work of the two, we also have guest artists on display in the rooms of our beautiful ’50s house.
J: What are your thoughts on the influence by smaller independent galleries showing beside larger state run galleries, especially during a large week of foreigners attending (such as the Havana Biennial)?
LD: During the Biennial, there were maybe as many “open studios” as official displays. The Biennial presents a kind of cross-section of current Cuban art, and visitors have maybe a more panoramic understanding of it. It is also an opportunity for us Cubans to see a little bit from the international arena. This year it was Galleria Continua, from Italy, bringing artists such as Michelangelo Pistoletto, Daniel Buren, Nikhil Chopra, and others.
The Biennial and most state run galleries do not have a commercial nature though, and that’s the main difference with open studios. The curatorial concept also sets them apart of course. I think there should be room for everything (private and state-run galleries alike) because each has a specific purpose. Particularly taking into consideration the huge disproportion between the number of artists in Cuba and the number of state-run art venues. I think this is bound to change.
You can read the rest of the Q&A here at The Standard Hotel Culture site.