Apr 5
Cuban artists will stage an alternative biennial in Havana to protest a controversial government decree.
Old Havana. Photo by Rob Oo, via Flickr.

Old Havana. Photo by Rob Oo, via Flickr.

In protest of Cuba’s controversial Decree 349, which requires artists to obtain government approval to mount their projects, a group of artists will stage an alternative to the Havana Biennial, which opens April 12. The alternative show, dubbed “Bienal Sin 349/Biennial Without 349,” will take place at Old Havana’s artist-run Museum of Politically Inconvenient Art and feature works by Cuban and international artists dealing with the topic of Cuban censorship. It will coincide with the 13th edition of the Havana Biennial, which was originally planned for November 2018, but canceled because of Hurricane Irma.

“If the regime lets us do these projects, it’s a victory because it means that it can’t silence us,” Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, an organizer of “Bienal Sin 349,” told The Art Newspaper. “This is really about inviting artists to stand in solidarity with us.”

A special report on Decree 349 published last month by PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection called for its repeal, stating unequivocally that it “goes against Cuba’s commitment to respect fundamental human rights and puts artistic freedom in jeopardy.” The decree requires all people in Cuba engaging in artistic activities to be registered with an institution affiliated with the Ministry of Culture, which negotiates contracts and payment with the artists, can deny artists permission to pursue a project, and punish them for doing so in defiance of the decree.

The PEN America report quoted artist, writer, and performer Nonardo Perea, who said:

I’m a gay feminist artist who works on issues of homoeroticism. I think that the Decree 349 will not only affect my artistic work but will also make me seem more marginalized in the eyes of others, who will see me as a despicable criminal. [...] In some ways, it forces me to rethink if it’s worth it to continue living in my own country.