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A Photoblog of Cuba's capital taken over by art in celebration of XII Havana Biennial

fortaleza de san carlos de la cabana and el morro

Morro y Cabaña become ‘Zona Franca’ Morro y Cabaña become ‘Zona Franca’

Morro y Cabaña become ‘Zona Franca’

An impressive collection of paintings, sculptures, interactive pieces, photographs and eye-catching installations of all sizes are now on show in Havana’s fortress, Morro y Cabaña, as part of the month-long edition of the XII Bienal de la Habana (Havana Biennial) which will be on display until 22nd June. The area has been baptised as ‘Zona Franca’ during the duration of the event due to the nature of the works presented there; “A free zone that showcases the infinite fabric of Cuban art, especially the pieces created over the last five years”, according to main Curator JR Isabel Perez.

With a much more interactive nature than in previous years, the works of art presented under this year’s of theme “Between the Idea and the Experience” invite the public to ponder, admire and interact with the pieces of art put together by artists from over 45 different countries in the world.

The outdoor exhibits in detail The outdoor exhibits in detail The outdoor exhibits in detail
The outdoor exhibits in detail
The outdoor exhibits in detail The outdoor exhibits in detail

The outdoor exhibits in detail

Housed in a colonial environment lined by brick walls of the ancient fortress of La Cabaña, the large-scale pieces of art displayed on the leafy exteriors are eye-catching to say the least, and most have been made to look like they naturally belong here. Done with materials that perfectly blend into the environment of cobbled streets, cannons and cannonballs, zooming in or zooming out of these art exhibits you still get a sense that they are part of this place.

There is a structure resembling an old boat with bicycle wheels by artist Teresa Chafer. There is a huge fish skeleton sculpture and another one entitled Bailarina that shows the lower half of a ballerina’s body as she dives into a pool, making a splash. There’s also what looks like a French guillotine but instead of a blade, a series of loops dangle held by threads.

The gallery inside the Cabaña
The gallery inside the Cabaña The gallery inside the Cabaña The gallery inside the Cabaña

The gallery inside the Cabaña

Inside the walls of the Cabaña fortress a series of galleries display beautiful pieces of art that include smaller sculptures, photographs and paintings.

Taking centre stage in one of the rooms are a few wooden installations that recreate medieval staircases that ascend in spiral with walls filled with small medieval paintings done to scale. Created by Cuban artist, Ruben Alpizar, these belong to a series called Babel.

Another room is solely occupied by a piece from revered Cuban artist, Roberto Fabelo. Entitled La Ronda Infinita (The Endless Round), the piece consists of a giant cooking pot with human figures walking alongside its borders.

Lastly, dramatically cascading down like a series of colourful stalactites that take over the ceiling of an entire room, there’s the delicate and overwhelming piece of work entitled La Necesidad de Otros Aires, by Cuban female artiste, Arles del Rio.

Striking pieces of colossal scale
Striking pieces of colossal scale Striking pieces of colossal scale

Striking pieces of colossal scale

Drawing attention because of its massive size are a few striking pieces. One of the largest is a creation by Cuban artist, Alexis Leyva Machado, also known as Kcho, and it consists of a gigantic sculpture of a not-so-technologically advanced robot made of what looks like bits of cement or polystyrene foam and recycled iron with a set of wooden rowing paddles for its fingers and two rescue swim rings on its shoes.

Sculptures with a view

Sculptures with a view

Commanding spectacular views over the Bay of Havana and El Morro fortress in the distance with its iconic lighthouse, there’s one large-scale piece of work that’s almost unnoticeable because of how well it blends in it surroundings.

Positioned between two ancient black cannons, done in a similar shade of black the piece consists of a sculpture made in the shape of a letter “S” and, were it not for the red stripe in the shape of an “i” running across its longitude, this piece by Nadal Anteimo (a.k.a Nadalito) wouldn’t stand out at all.

Looking like it belongs there, the “i” letter going over the gigantic S, in the manner of an information icon, makes the structure look like a Cuban Peso sign ($) which uses the same monetary icon as the dollar, signalling perhaps the recent thawing of relations between these two nations.

The Malecon's first ever beach The Malecon's first ever beach
The Malecon's first ever beach

The Malecon's first ever beach

As part of a project called “Detras del Muro” (Behind the Wall), the open-air gallery taking over the always popular and much-trodden Malecon seawall has become a success like no other.

One of its most visited installations is the artificial beach that has been created in an area of the seawall promenade, complete with sand, sun loungers, palms and thatch-roofed parasols offering a welcome shade from the relentless sunshine along this otherwise shade-less walk.

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