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Home » News » Cuban Art in the 20th Century: Cultural Identity and the International Avant Garde

Cuban Art in the 20th Century: Cultural Identity and the International Avant Garde

Published February 29, 2016

February 12 – March 27, 2016

Written by Daniella Deloatch

Cuban Art in the 20th Century: Cultural Identity and the International Avant Garde is the largest exhibition of Cuban art presented stateside in over 70 years and The Museum of Fine Arts is delighted to welcome visitors to an incomparable experience. Cuban Art in the Twentieth Century is the ambitious curatorial project of lawyer, art collector and art history doctoral candidate, Segundo J. Fernandez. He was born in Cuba in 1950 and emigrated with his family to Miami when he was ten years old. While still a child in Cuba, his passion for art was apparent, and so when the exhibition became a possibility, it was an undertaking extremely close to his heart.

As a very young boy, I remember paintings by some of the people in this exhibition hanging in my grandparents’ home.

Fernandez proposed the exhibition over two years ago in order to bring to the Tallahassee community a selection from notable masters of Cuban art. Cuban Art in the Twentieth Century represents diverse works that illustrate and celebrate the rich culture, history and landscape of the Caribbean nation. The exhibition chronology begins in the Cuban colonial period, travels through time to offer the public a glimpse of artists from successive generations including those of the modern art movement, then concludes with the contemporary era. Cuban Art in the Twentieth Century maps the trajectory of art development over a century of brilliance.

There is a notion in some circles of art history that art from Latin America or Cuba is derivative of what was happening in Europe in the 20th century. I reject that,” Fernandez says. “These artists interacted with the European avant-garde to create a class of art in its own using who they were, along with what they had seen and learned.

Over 100 works, mostly from private collectors across the state, were organized, assembled and shipped to the Museum by Ramón Cernuda of Cernuda Arte Gallery in Coral Gables, Florida. Along with collaborating art historians Juan Martinez and Paul Niell, Curator Segundo Fernandez and the Cernuda Arte team premiered Cuban Art in the Twentieth Century to major success on February 12th: the opening attracted over 1,200 visitors who came to appreciate the works of Cuban artists from past to present. Additional photos of the opening reception can be found at this original posting.

Dr. Juan Martinez, Professor Emeritus, Florida International University, delivered a lecture on February 22 in conjunction with Cuban Art in the Twentieth Century. His teachings and work focus on the Modern era of art in Cuba and Europe. Martinez received his doctorate in art history from Florida State University in 1992 and wrote the introductory essay in the exhibition catalogue; his lecture described the foundation of Cuban modernism and significant Cuban artists. Please enjoy a short clip of Dr. Martinez’s lecture below.



On February 23, a colloquium at the Museum launched a discussion of the global intersections of law, culture and art. The afternoon panel session, entitled Colloquium on Law, Cultural Patrimony and the International Art Trade, included FSU art history professors Dr. Michael Carrasco and Dr. Preston McLane, FSU Law professor Fernando Tesón, and leading expert on Cuban Art Ramón Cernuda. Due to the U.S. embargo against trade with Cuba, Gallery Director Ramón Cernuda had nearly 200 works of art confiscated by the Federal Bureau of Intelligence in the 1980s. This confiscation prompted a federal court case in Florida that ultimately ruled in favor of cultural patrimony, asserting that these Cuban art works were protected under the First Amendment and did not equate to banned commercial goods. Panelist Cernuda recalled the events of this legal ordeal during the colloquium, which can be viewed in the following video clip.

Following the Colloquium on the evening of February 23rd, President John Thrasher hosted  a reception for Cuban Art in the Twentieth Century. While enjoying the bold color, diverse subjects and technical bravura of the Cuban artists displayed, enthusiastic guests conversed with the participants of the exhibition, lectures, and Colloquium events; they also sampled authentic Cuban cuisine catered by Habana Boardwalk. Segundo Fernandez spoke gratefully of the fine arts community at Florida State University and recognized the many supporters of the Cuban Art exhibition. Peter Weishar, Dean of the College of Fine Arts, congratulated the Curator and introduced President John Thrasher, who stated the uncontested importance of the fine arts and extended his own congratulations to the Curator, the community, and the Museum for presenting the remarkable collection of artworks.

Cuban Art in the Twentieth Century: Cultural Identity and the International Avant Garde will run through March 27, 2016 and is free to all guests. Be sure to visit this marvelous exhibition and take a walk through decades of Cuban history, culture and creativity.

For additional information regarding the exhibition please visit the original posting.