Bronx Museum to host Cuban art exchange

Next year, the Bronx will be home to a ground-breaking art exhibit.

The Bronx Museum of the Arts has recently announced an unprecedented art exchange with Cuba’s El Museo National de Bellas Artes (The National Museum of Fine Arts) in Havana.

More than one hundred works of art from the Bronx Museum’s permanent collection will be on display in Havana this summer, and a similarly sized exhibit from Havana will make its way to the Bronx in spring 2016.

The joint arts initiative represents the largest visual arts exchange between the two countries in more than 50 years, according to the museum.

The announcement comes after the U.S. announced plans to increase diplomatic relations with Cuba, but Bronx Museum program director Sergio Bessa said that it’s just a wonderful coincidence.

“The timing was perfect,” said Bessa.

The art exchange itself has been in the works for more than two years, said Bessa.

The idea developed when the Bronx Museum hosted curators from the museum in Havana to New York for a residency, but the relationship between the museums goes back even further.

The Bronx Museum has been working with the arts community in Cuba since the first biennial celebration in Havana in 1984, and this year’s exhibit will take place during the 12th Biennial.

The Bronx Museum’s executive director Holly Block has been working with Cuban artists for years, said Bessa, and is something of an expert on the subject of Cuban contemporary art. She’s previously published a book called ‘Art Cuba: The New Generation.’

“There are many connections fostered over a long period,” said Bessa about the relationship with the Cuban museum.

The upcoming cultural exchange plans to strengthen relationship further.

Besides the art exhibits in the Bronx and Havana, the exchange will include an artist exchange program, which New York artist Mary Mattingly will participate in this spring.

A ‘Teen Exchange’ will put youngsters in the Bronx and Havana in contact through mail exchanges and joint projects. And a dual language print and digital publication will also enhance the exhibit.

“We didn’t want to just do an exhibit,” said Bessa. “We wanted to engage through the arts.”

Yet the art itself offers many opportunities for connections, said Bessa.

The pieces the Bronx Museum has chosen to share from its permanent collection come from a wide range of artists from Bronx-born locals to international artist, but they share a unifying theme of exploring the urban experience.

Bessa says the exhibit, called ‘Wild Noise,’ will show both the struggles and vibrancy that are common to the Bronx and to Havana.

“I hope for people here to recognize themselves in the Cuban artists,” said Bessa, “And for the same thing to happen when we go to Havana.”

Reach Reporter Jaime Williams at 718-260-4591. E-mail her at jwill‌iams@‌cnglo‌