Early History of the Havana Biennial

We prepared this Early History of the Havana Biennial as the visual arts specialist of the Havana Biennial Team. We have prepared this history so that you understand how this event started in the 1980s how it has grown in size and become so important to us and the artists of Cuba.

1st Havana Biennial, May – June 1984

Initially concentrated on Latin America and the Caribbean. Approximately 800 artists participated with around 2,000 works. Many prizes were awarded. Grand Prize to Arnold Belkin (Mexico) first in the History of the Havana Biennial.

Catalog in Spanish: 320 pages, reproductions in black and white, introduction of Eliseo Diego as the only text, brief biographies of the artists. Appendix to the catalog (90 pages).

International symposium on Wifredo Lam

2nd Havana Biennial, Nov 26 – Dec. 31 1986

From here with Latin America and the Caribbean, also Africa and Asia. More than 2,400 works by 690 artists from 57 countries. Ten prizes were awarded. In the attached program a huge amount of parallel exhibitions, meetings, conferences, workshops, etc.

Catalog in Spanish: 570 pages, reproductions in black and white, detailed program, biographies of artists, only greeting text by the Minister of Culture Armando Hart. Numerous bulletins with complementary information. 2nd in the History of the Havana Biennial.

International Conference on Caribbean Art; book with contributions of the conference published in 1989 by Editorial Letras Cubanas (Spanish).

3rd Havana Biennial, October 27 – Dec. 31 1989

Main theme: Tradition and Contemporaneity. Participation of some 300 artists from 41 countries with around 850 works; Elimination of prizes Numerous parallel exhibitions, meetings, workshops etc.

Catalog: 370 pages, reproductions in black and white. Essays by Llilian Llanes (Director of the Wifredo Lam Center), Juan Acha, Rashid M. Diab, Frederico Moraes, Roberto Segre; introductory texts to the different thematic complexes; short biographies (Spanish). Third in the History of the Havana Biennial.

International Conference: Tradition and Contemporaneity in the Art of the Third World

4th Havana Biennial, Nov 16 – Dec. 31 1991

Central theme: The Challenge to Colonization. Around 150 artists from 40 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and minorities from other regions. Individual and collective special exhibitions as part of the Biennial. As in previous editions, a broad program of exhibitions and events in Havana.

Catalog: 300 pages, black and white reproductions, short biographies. Numerous texts on comprehensive topics and on the different exhibition complexes, among others by von Llilian Llanes, Eduardo Subirats, Luis Camnitzer, Jorge Glusberg, Pierre Gaudibert, Ivan de la Nuez, Brahim Ben Hossain Alaoui, Nelly Richard, Nelson Herrera Ysla. (Spanish) fourth in the History of the Havana Biennial.

International Conference: Cultural domination and alternatives to colonization.

5th Havana Biennial, May 6 – June 30, 1994

Main theme: Art – Society – Reflection. Five particular topics: 1. Fragmented spaces. Art, power and marginality; 2. The other shore (migrations); 3. Appropriations and cross-links (hybridisations, cultural mix); 4. Environments and circumstances (ecology, living conditions); 5. Art and individual in the periphery of postmodernity. About 240 artists from more than 40 countries. Parallel program of events and exhibitions.

Catalog: 310 pages, color and black and white reproductions. Essays and articles, among others: Llilian Llanes, Nelson Herrera Ysla, Néstor García Canclini, Carla Stellweg, Ery Camara, Eugenio Valdés Figueroa, Hilda María Rodríguez, Ibis Hernández and Margarita Sánchez, Magda I. González, Juan Antonio Molina. (Spanish) Fifth in the History of the Havana Biennial.

International conference on the themes of the Biennial.

A selection of the Biennial was exhibited from September 1994 at the Ludwig Forum of International Art in Aachen / Germany. Catalog in German.

We hope to meet you at the 13th Havana Biennial! Read about the 12th Havana Biennial 2015: Look Back.