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Cuban art world readies to take on U.S. market

Cuban art has been known to only a few in the United States.

By
Ed Adamczyk

MIAMI, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- U.S. art collectors are among those eagerly awaiting the effects of the normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba, announced this week.

The restoration of diplomatic ties is expected to increase interest in, and the cost of, examples of Cuba's vibrant contemporary art. Collector Howard Farber told the Wall Street Journal, "I believe Cuban art has been a best-kept secret among a few collectors," Mr. Farber said, "and now that Cuba is opening up to us I think more people will discover a genre that's fresh and great."

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Cuban art has been available to U.S. buyers, but procedures are complicated by bureaucracy and the Cuban art world's profile has been a low one; the U.S. embargo on Cuban goods exempts "cultural assets," like painting and sculpture, but few people within the United States support the market for star artists like Yoan Capote, Carlos Garaicoia and the duo Los Carpinteros. Scrap objects, like weathered wood and old metal, are typical media for Cuban art, and themes of isolation and the sea are common. So are references to rafts and oars, coded to circumvent censors.

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New York art dealer Sean Kelly said he expects Americans to discover, and wildly embrace, young and edgy Cuban artists whose work may not have been seen outside of Havana, site of a biennial art exhibit.

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"If you're the 24-year-old Jean-Michel Basquiat of Cuba, nobody in the U.S. has been able to discover your work. Now, we will," Mr. Kelly said, a reference to Brooklyn-born Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988), whose work took the New York art world by storm in the 1990s. Kelly added it will likely be easier for Cuban artists to travel to the United States.

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