Cuban Art of the 1980s. The Reynardus Collection

Cuban Art of the 1980s. The Reynardus Collection presents a selection of works from one of the most comprehensive private collections of contemporary Cuban art in the United States. Focusing on the artwork by Cuban artists who left the island after 1989, it represents a generation that changed the Island’s culture through its aesthetic practices.

The Cuban Revolution (1959) brought many political, economic and social changes to the Island. It also brought transformations in the cultural arena, including the creation of a free art education system. From an aesthetic perspective, the new government did not impose a specific style, but the arts, as every other aspect of society, were expected to serve the revolutionary ideals. To enforce this, a tight system of censorship was put in place.

By the time the first generation born in raised under the Revolution attended the institutions of higher education, a series of exceptional conditions allowed its members to develop what came to be known as the “new art from Cuba.” They began practicing at a time of relative economic and political stability. Individuals running governmental institutions supported them, organized events such as the Havana Biennial, and promoted their participation in international exhibitions. Individually and collectively, they sought to make a new kind of art inspired by international artistic movements and/or their own personal experiences such as Afro-Cuban culture and the vernacular. For a while, they succeeded in promoting their aesthetic quests while remaining faithful to the political left. Eventually, many of them assumed a more critical position towards social, economic and political issues, pushing the limits and suffering consequences such as losing economic support and even imprisonment.

The fall of the Soviet Union brought a new period of censorship, economic limitations and lack of opportunities. Hundreds of artists left the Island causing an exodus comparable to the one that occurred when intellectuals left Europe during the Second World War. Although many of the Cuban artists first travelled to countries like Mexico, Spain, Venezuela or Colombia, most of them ended settling in the United States.

The majority of the works in the exhibition belong to artists who gained recognition at a young age and were instrumental in the development of Cuban art in the 1980s. Their stories, styles and experiences are all different but they share a common bond: they chose to live in exile. The collection also includes works by Cuban masters who influenced them and by artists born in Cuba who left early in their careers or became artists after migrating to the United States.

The collection reflects the vision of Jorge Reynardus, a Cuban art lover who, like the artists exhibited, grew up in Cuba but left in search for safer and better opportunities. His collection serves as a testimony of a crucial time in Cuba’s art history, but also to what it means to have a passion for art and to live with it.

Francine Birbragher PhD
Curator

About Jorge Reynardus:

Jorge Reynardus was born in 1944 in Panama, to a Panamanian father and a Cuban mother. He was raised and educated in Cuba. He left the island in 1961 and began a new life in the United States. He studied at the Harvard Business School and, after graduating, he went on to become a pioneer in the world of Hispanic advertising. In 1991, he founded a leading advertising agency in New York which flourished in the 1990s. At that time, hundreds of Cuban artists left the island. The majority settled in Miami and New York. He became friends with many of them and began to acquire their works. With time, he built an impressive collection and long-lasting friendships with many of the artists, which makes living with their art even more special. Today, the Jorge Reynardus Collections stands prominently among private Cuban art collections in the United States.

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