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Ici Berlin Press

Climbing Aboard

Climbing Aboard

Analays Alvarez Hernandez

Climbing Aboard
Havana Apartment-Galleries and International Art Circuits

Worlding Public Cultures
Berlin: ICI Berlin Press, 2023
ISBN 978-3-96558-063-3 | Paperback | 10 EUR | v, 63 pp. | 9 colour images | 17.8 cm x 12.7 cm
ISBN 978-3-96558-064-0 | PDF | Open Access | 9 colour images | 8.6 MB
ISBN 978-3-96558-065-7 | EPUB | Open Access | 9 colour images | 13.1 MB

Havana’s apartment-galleries have been vital venues for the city’s art scene since the 1990s, hosting art exhibitions, workshops, and conferences. In the context of Cuba’s limited art market and dearth of cultural institutions with international reach, these residential spaces have offered artists a unique opportunity to display their work and to connect with international art circuits. Focusing on the histories of three specific apartment-galleries — El Apartamento, Estudio Figueroa-Vives, and Avecez Art Space — this chapbook reflects on the complex interplay of the local and the global in the ‘worlding’ of cultural institutions.

Analays Álvarez Hernández is an art historian, independent curator, and Assistant Professor at the Université de Montréal. She holds a B.A. in Art History from the Universidad de La Habana, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Art History from the Université du Québec à Montréal. Her research focuses on public art, alternatives exhibitions venues, diasporic and Latinx-Canadian artists, and decolonial issues. She recently co-edited Latin American Art(ists) from/in Canada: Expanding Narratives, Territories, and Perspectives (LALVC, University of California Press) and ‘Revised Commemoration’ in Public Art: What Future for the Monument? (RACAR). As an independent curator, Álvarez Hernández has organized several exhibitions mostly in Havana, tsi Tkarón:to (Toronto) and Tiohti:áke/Mooniyang (Montreal), such as The Recipe: Making Latin American Art in Canada(Sur Gallery, 2018 ; OBORO, 2020), Au fil des îles, archipels (Centre d’exposition de l’Université de Montréal, 2022; Musée régional de Rimouski, 2023), and On Americanity and Other Experiences of Belonging (Onsite Gallery, 2023).
Apartment art in Cuba has evolved and diversified greatly since it emerged a public phenomenon in the 1990s, but very little scholarship has paid attention to it. Analays Alvarez Hernandez’s study focuses on three independent art spaces that gained prominence between 2015–19 that represent different tendencies — the private gallery, the museum, and the laboratory. Alvarez Hernandez concentrates on the relationship these art spaces develop with international art circuits and the global art market, providing significant insights into the ways that outsiders interpret and consume Cuban art. — Coco Fusco, interdisciplinary artist and writer.
Implementing a comparative, transversal theoretical approach, Analays Alvarez Hernandez presents a groundbreaking analysis of the rise of apartment-galleries in Cuba in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse. The author examines alternative cultural spaces on the island which insert Cuban artists in the international art circuit by locating value in the condition of marginality and ‘difference’ from western cites of valorization. In this deft and evocative work, Alvarez Hernandez considers the various ways in which these domestic venues circumvent the economic and sociopolitical realities that prevent artists from establishing themselves domestically and internationally outside the parameters of sanctioned state institutions. She grounds her analysis in the premise that globalization has opened itself up to non-western cultures and artistic traditions in its simultaneous disruption of more traditional understandings of spatiality and overturning of any notion of territoriality. As the title of this thought-provoking study suggests, Climbing Aboard demonstrates how operating within a global framework, apartment-galleries — in all their manifestations — allow Cuban artists residing on the island to escape the tyrannies of space for they embody a more malleable concept of cultural expression as a portable, nomadic form, which circulates in a world that is fluid and permeable, rather than static or fixed. This notion of rooted-mobility enables these artists the opportunity to establish their autonomy and actively engage with the international art scene. — Andrea O’Reilly Herrera, author of Cuban Artists Across the Diaspora: Setting the Tent Against the House
In this stimulating and refreshing text, Analays Alvarez Hernandez introduces us to apartment-galleries, an artistic phenomenon almost unique to Havana. Above all, it admirably creates the unlikely link between an apartment as an exhibition space and the international contemporary art scene. In addition, this chapbook finally gives an explanation to people like me who have visited the famous Havana Biennial and left without fully understanding the mystery of these apartment-galleries. — Christine Bernier, Professor of Art History and Museum Studies, Université de Montréal
Climbing Abroad draws a politically intimate yet wide-spanning portrait of the art scene in Havana, which has operated on the threshold of the private and the public from the nineteenth century to this day. Alvarez Hernandez offers insight into the cultural politics that have driven apartment galleries in Havana for decades by tracing a fine interconnected web of curatorial voices and visions. Whether using the model of private gallery, museum, or laboratory, each of these forms reflects the challenges of the contemporary Cuban sociopolitical context as much as the entanglements within the geopolitical forces of the international art world(s). What is most intriguing is the author’s proposal for a new form of fluid site-specificity, whereby agency is rooted in new strategies of visibility, collaboration, and mobility — so very vital for a so-called accelerated post-pandemic time. — Barbara Clausen, curator and professor at the art history department at the Université du Québec à Montréal, curatorial research director of the Joan Jonas Knowledge Base and author of Babette Mangolte, Performance zwischen Aktion und Betrachtung.
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