Germany rebuilds historic Cuban ties with flurry of art exhibitions

Fidel Castro visited former-GDR city of Rostock where latest show opened this week

Now that it has restored diplomatic ties with Cuba, the US has been busy staging exhibitions of the country’s artists. Germany might have been trailing behind, but it is now quickly catching up. The Kunsthalle Rostock is hosting Kuba Libre at (until 19 June) an exhibition of 30 contemporary Cuban artists who have been working on the Caribbean island for the past two decades.

The former-GDR city of Rostock on the Baltic Sea is a fitting location for the show as it has close ties to Cuba. Fidel Castro visited Rostock twice and the city’s Kunsthalle was the only exhibition space that East Germany ever built. “It is important to have this exhibition in Rostock now because Germany has already gone through this process of transformation from communism to capitalism,” says the exhibition’s curator Tereza de Arruda, who has been a guest curator at several editions of the Havana Biennale.

The exhibition brings together dissident and “official” Cuban artists to “help us understand the current situation in Cuba,” she says. Among the show’s highlights are works from the "special period" in the 1990s when everything was scarce in Cuba as the Eastern Bloc collapsed. The prominent artist Kcho is showing various print-based works (although even printing was challenging during this era) and an installation by Humberto Diaz of a melted car in front of the Rostock museum.

An exhibition of the same title—Cuba Libre—opened last month at the Ludwig Museum in Koblenz, a town halfway between Cologne and Frankfurt (until 12 June). The show is centered on the collection of Peter und Irene Ludwig, long-time patrons of Cuban art. It includes internationally-recognized Cuban artists such as Los Carpinteros, José Bedia, and Yoan and Iván Capote.

Meanwhile in Berlin, Galerie Barbara Thumm is staging a solo show of the Cuban-born, Düsseldorf-based artist Diango Hernández (until 4 June). It opened last week during Berlin Gallery Weekend.