Rumour has it that Havana has a thriving Art scene so I decided instead of roaming around Vieja Havana with a paper map just looking at the usual suspects I would get a Tour Guide for the day. However, I wanted one who knew the Galleries and Artists. My on the ground contact Raiza found for me a multi-lingual fluent in English Teacher who not only knew many Artists but was an accomplished one himself.
Nick met me at my home while in Cuba, Tu Habana and we jumped into a shared cab (only 1CUC!) that dropped us off at Parque Central by the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso with the Capital building in view and famous hotels like the Inglaterra nearby. We sat down on cement benches across from the statue of Jose Marti to discuss the history of Cuba and do some people watching.
After a good hour long plus History lesson we headed over to the Plaza de Armas where stands the Statue of Carlos Manual Despasdes and the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, the former residence of the governors, now a great museum I highly recommend checking out due to its variety of works. It was here I first came upon the works of the Artist Roberto Fabelo, a surreal abstract of a Nude Woman holding a Fork while sitting astride a Giant Rooster(more on this to come). The Castillo de la Real Fuerza is nearby right on the water. The old fort and its canons are great for photos.
It was time for a late lunch, we went to The Mercado(Coin)restaurant not just for the food but the open airy terrace and its great views. While discussing a number of topics he shared when you meet a beautiful Cuban girl take her to a place like this and whisper in her ear. “Salud que belleza sobra” health and beauty.
Well sated we continued weaving our way through the streets of Old Havana passing by Hemingway’s home where he wrote his classic Islands in the Stream on the way to the Square Cathedral St. Francis. For some great city views we went up the Edificio Gomez Vila to the Camera Obscura.
We entered the Vieja Square (which oddly enough in 1559 was called Nuevo square) where I came upon Roberto Fabelo’s Rooster again, though this time as a rather large sculpture. Oddly enough it wasn’t till months later at the Context Art Fair NY I learned what it meant. The Rooster is the proud, loud, colorful man who thinks he’s in charge. However it is the woman astride him who is in charge. She either controls him with her “sex” via the legs wrapped around him…or uses her fork to feed him.
While heading to Calle O’Reilly and Calle Empeandro we came upon the Raquel Hotel a beautiful space with lobby and bar full of beautiful artwork. We walked into the gallery of Antonio Estupinan who was working on a painting using Newspaper as canvas and stopped into a number of other galleries including Izmary Gonzalez Cabrera gallery, Sanlly Viera’s Gallery, Alfredo Mendoza and Maikel Sotomayor Open Estudio, Abel Massot, and Juan Lopez’s to name a few.
We popped into O’Reilly 304 for Mojito’s served in big glass jars. Fortified we headed to Calle Empeandro which has a number of Galleries Stopped by the Leblanc art gallery and then onto El ojo de Ciclon a physical manisfistation of Artist Leo D’Lazaro’s mind. Nick was handed a Guitar and started playing and singing Cuban songs in the “man cave”. Surreal.
Next thing I knew it was after 8pm and time to call it a day. I thanked my guide Nick for an awesome job and then went back and forth in my broken high school Spanish to negotiate a cab back to Vedado.
For more info on the restaurants and bars mentioned please check out my blog on the restaurants of Vedado and Old Havana. Also if you are interested in getting intro’ed to Raiza or Nick hit me in the Comments section.