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Cuban artists react to Fidel Castro’s death

Anti-Castro artist and human rights activist El Sexto believed to have been abducted amid crackdown

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Cuba’s artists are still coming to terms with the death of the country’s former leader Fidel Castro on 25 November. The anti-Castro artist and human rights activist Danilo Maldonado Machado, known as El Sexto, has been missing since Monday. His family told his gallery, Pollock Fine Art, that they believe he was beaten and abducted from his Havana home. Meanwhile, several activist groups in Cuba “have suspended their activities in anticipation of a police crackdown”, according to a statement from the gallery. Machado, who is the subject of a Julian Schnabel-produced documentary that premiered on Monday on HBO, was due to give a performance at Art Concept Miami this week.

The effects of Castro’s death have also been felt by galleries in Havana. An exhibition of works by Anish Kapoor that was scheduled to open on 26 November at Galleria Continua—the only foreign gallery on the island—was postponed due to Cuba’s nine days of national mourning. We understand that several other shows that had been planned to take place over the weekend, to capture the attention of visitors to Art Basel in Miami Beach, have also been delayed.

Among artists, the reaction to Castro’s death has been mixed. The National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba said in a statement: “Fidel was not only an extraordinary political leader but an intellectual committed to his time and humanity.”

The US-based Cuban artist and activist Tania Bruguera tells us: “This is the moment to unite all Cubans, [to] start a new stage where there is no political hatred and where there can exist a humanist utopia without citizen paranoia.” Last month, the artist announced her intention to run for president of Cuba in 2018. At an event in New York this week, Bruguera said that the project has become only “more relevant” in the wake of Castro’s death.