Oct 102011


Since Cuba opened up its island to tourism in the late 1980s, worldwide interest in Cuban art began to grow. Local Cuban artists in various cities and towns throughout Cuba began to sell their art to tourists, paint on commission for tourists especially at the resorts which have also spread in number across the island of Cuba. Artists, who are traditionally poor in many countries, found a new avenue for generating income in Cuba. The selling of art to tourists was a method by Cuban artists could survive the economic hardships they faced, to not only support themselves but also to buy the materials they needed to create their art.

With the expropriation of American property and businesses by the Cuban socialist government after the revolution in 1959, relationships between Cuba and the U.S. have been strained to say the least. The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, stretched that relationship even further. The U.S. imposed a trade embargo which failed because the rest of the world would continue to do business with Cuba and travel to Cuba.  No American embargo was to stop the world from visiting and experience the blossoming tourist trade and all this beautiful island offers. In 1989, after the fall of Communism in Europe and the Soviet Union, the Soviet Union’s economic support of Cuba came to a halt. This led to what has been named as the Special Period in Cuba, a time of extreme difficulties in the lives of the Cuban people.

Life for all Cubans during this time was extremely hard.  Medicine, food and basic necessities were in short supply. Cubans themselves have suffered from the American trade embargo – a policy that has been judged by many economic experts as a complete failure. From 1959 Cuba had been shut off from the world and suffered hardship economically and socially. Americans were not allowed to travel to Cuba during this time and still cannot travel freely.  Americans who want to visit Cuba had to do so via another country such as Canada or Mexico. The Cuban government assisted these secret visits by Americans by not stamping their passports when they traveled to Cuba.

In spite of all these difficulties, the Cuban art scene has flourished and built itself an international reputation among ordinary people and art collectors. Economic difficulties and struggles for certain freedoms have not curtailed the creativity of Cuban artists. In fact, these struggles have given birth to a characteristically Cuban art created in this political and social context.

Cultural exchanges between the United States, Canada and Cuba have grown in recent years for the most talented elite of Cuba’s artists. Restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba have been relaxed by President Obama. Americans, curious to see and experience the Cuba they have not seen since 1959 have been traveling to Cuba by the thousands. The Cuban economy has benefited from tourism because of this influx of American tourists. Likewise, a curiosity in Cuban art and artists has also developed.

If you are traveling to Cuba and are interested in Cuban art and artists, you will find many art galleries in Havana, Cuba’s capital city. These art galleries in Havana with both art exhibitions and Cuban art for sale display the best works of the most talented Cuban artists as well as the works of young, talented upcoming artists. You will also find art galleries in Havana devoted exclusively to exhibiting the photographic work of famous Cuban photographers. Often housed in architecturally beautiful, sometimes renovated buildings built in the early 20th century, these art galleries in Havana should not be missed for the wealth of Cuban art they display.

Your first stop in the art galleries in Havana should be the National Museum of Fine Arts in Old Havana at Trocadero e/ Zulueta y Monserrate. After the National Museum of Fine Art, there are numerous other galleries in Havana one can visit and experience contemporary and historical Cuban art in these wonderful environments and discover the cultural works of Cuban artists, so long hidden from the rest of the world.

Want find out more about Cuban art, art galleries and Cuban artists? Read our recommendations on the best books on Cuban art and buy them from Amazon, the safest way to have books shipped directly to your home.

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