Art Content and Intent: And the Impact of the Market
A Question/Observation Raised in Cuba

Two works by Alexis Leyva (Kcho): La peor de los trampas 1991 (l) - En mi pensamiento 1997 (r)

The relationship between the content and intent of a work of art to international market forces was poignantly addressed during a panel discussion taking place in conjunction with the 5th Havana Bienal - May, 1994. A young Cuban art student spoke from the floor expressing her concern and anger regarding the current impact of the market - international collectors - on the production of art in Cuba.

Young Cuban artists engage in a high level of critical discourse, they contribute to and are keenly aware of the range of postmodern thought and practice in the arts. While they live in and experience the realities of Cuba they do not think or work in isolation.

Certain Cuban artists have played an important role in the internal dialogue, taking a critical stance on certain social and economic issues and conditions. During this process of engagement certain exhibitions have been closed by officials and the exhibitions have had to be moved to non-governmental venues (homes, the streets, etc.). The artists have persisted and the dialogue for all has been extended and energized. All this has occurred as a result of the reality which is Cuba, a component of the dialectic which is essential to the revolution, even if the government at times sees it as counter-revolutionary.

What concerned the student who spoke was that now the international collector (and art tourist) has entered the scene and have favored the work of those who seem the most confrontational to the government. This is the work that sells best. As a result it is becoming impossible to discern whether the work being created now by many Cuban artists is a direct result of and clearly reflects the necessary internal dialogue or whether it is merely a commodity, with the desired content for the outside market.

Cuban artists, having been able to develop and pursue their work to a great extent outside of the market for a number of years, are now confronted with the consequences of the market. The reality of this shift provides for each of us an important critique on the manner and function of the market in all sectors of society.