For the first time in the history of the Havana Biennial, three artists who call Bermuda home—Peter Lapsley, Jon Legere, and Andrea Sundt—were featured in the public art programme entitled ‘Behind the Wall’ or ‘Detrás del Muro’, which ran the length of the Malécon (Havana’s infamous seawall). The exhibition ended May 12, 2019.
The Havana Biennial is a globally recognized visual art exhibition that speaks to the exceptional creative output in Cuba, while also including the talents of select international artists.
The assigned locations for each artist posed certain challenges that were specific to the context of Havana: gritty street areas, fragile and crumbling edifices, a searing sun for the duration of the day. Into this, Jon and Peter (neither of whom speak Spanish) found creative solutions to their various unforeseen dilemmas while working with volunteers who spoke little English.
Despite the challenges, the three public art installations were considered a successful rendering, even if slightly different from what they had planned to install. The artists had to just ‘let it go’, Cuba-style, and imaginatively worked with what they had on hand.
As a result of this success, Bermuda has been asked to return for the next Havana Biennial, again for the ‘Behind the Wall’project. This excellent news was enthusiastically received by the artists who aspire to continue creating large-scale public art installations within an internationally recognized exhibition. For the next exhibition, they hope to secure a collateral space, meaning a specific gallery space, to showcase even more Bermuda artists. A larger footprint in the Havana Biennial will help to build Bermuda’s reputation as an important emerging context in the Caribbean contemporary art arena.
Independent curator & consultant, Lisa Howie, formerly the executive director of Bermuda National Gallery, stated, “I’m grateful for the opportunity to work as an associate curator on this public art project. I learned so much — about Cuban people who are so willing to assist, about Cuban bureaucracy that demands so much patience, and about the very nature of the public art arena which is so different from working in the safety of a museum.
The artists deserve a resounding applause. I’m very proud of what they accomplished under such difficult circumstances. They have crossed the threshold of the Havana Biennial thereby opening the door for more Bermuda artists. That’s terrific!” •••
Article By Bahamian Art & Culture No. 380 | 05.17.19