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July 7, 2015

Censorship still apparent as Cuba forges place in the art world

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By Gabby Shacknai

As the U.S. and Cuba restore diplomatic ties, artists in Cuba continue to face censorship by a socialist government.

When artist Tania Bruguera attempted to stage a performance art piece in December in response to the announcement of a reopening of diplomatic relations with the U.S., she was stopped and detained. She had no problem organizing the same performance in 2009.

Other artists are said to censor themselves, keeping in mind what will fly and what will not with the Cuban government. “It’s kind of sad when you have to conform it to just a little moment of complicity,” Brugera said.

Because the art world in Cuba is relatively new, many artists have taken on a very entrepreneurial role. Rather than having galleries sell on their behalf, Cuban artists deal directly with buyers, so in addition to selling their artwork, they must also sell themselves.

Many American collectors have developed interest in the works for their content and relatively low prices.

“If you look at the prices of American contemporary art, you could have a great Cuban collection for what you pay in sales tax in the U.S. for comparable work,” art collector Howard Farber said.

The recent Havana Biennial exposition has played a key role in the ever-exploding Cuban art market and has attracted many artists whose works have already been in prestigious museums and galleries such as the Tate Modern and the Museum of Modern Art.


Warm up questions
  1. What is censorship?
  2. Are there certain things artists can’t do in the U.S.?
Critical thinking questions
  1. Why would an artist self-censor?
  2. In Cuba, what are the risks involved with criticizing or offending the government?
  3. Why is free artistic expression important to a nation’s culture?
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