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Art frenzy takes over Havana as biennial kicks off

Updated : 2019-04-15 09:46:11

Cones of white paper sprout from the sea salt-eroded pillars of one colonial building along Havana's seafront, elaborately painted curtains cascade from another while out front children play with installation of multicoloured hoses.

Havana's 13th Biennial kicked off this weekend with works by more than 300 contemporary artists from 52 countries taking over the city's museums, galleries and open-air spaces, and many more collateral exhibits.

"They turned my home into an artwork," said Silvia Perez, smiling at the paper sprouting from the colonnade of her home, a piece by Cuban artist Elio Jesús Fonseca. "The artist said it meant peace."

The transformation of the Malecon seafront boulevard into an open-air, interactive gallery, has become one of the most popular venues of Cuba's most important art event.

Along the sidewalk, this year are smooth boulders encased in volcanic slabs by Mexican artist Jose Davila, while a swirling light installation by Peruvian artist Grimanesa Amoros protrudes from a building.

Cuba's Communist government, which has heavily promoted the arts since the country's 1959 leftist revolution, created the Havana Biennial in 1984 to promote artists from the developing world, especially Cuban ones.

This year, 80 Cubans will exhibit their work, including a performance on Monday by Manuel Mendive, considered the Caribbean island's top living artist.

Still, it also includes a large contingent of European and US artists including Cuban-Americans like Enrique Martínez Celaya and Emilio Perez.

The Havana Biennial runs until May 12.

A classic American car carries tourists next to an art installation during the inauguration of the exhibition
A classic American car carries tourists next to an art installation during the inauguration of the exhibition "Behind the Wall," at the 13th Havana Biennial, in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, April 14, 2019. American and international artists have flocked to Havana's Biennial, an art show designed to showcase new works and foster an appreciation of art among the public while giving new artists a venue to display their work. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
A woman with her dog awaits the start of performance next to an art installation during the inauguration of the exhibition
A woman with her dog awaits the start of performance next to an art installation during the inauguration of the exhibition "Behind the Wall," at the 13th Havana Biennial, in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
People play basketball as part of an art installation during the inauguration of the exhibition
People play basketball as part of an art installation during the inauguration of the exhibition "Behind the Wall," at the 13th Havana Biennial, in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
People walk around an art installation during the inauguration of the exhibition
People walk around an art installation during the inauguration of the exhibition "Behind the Wall," at the 13th Havana Biennial, in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Children play basketball with an installation by Spanish artists Martin and Sicilia during the 13th Havana Biennial, in Havana, Cuba April 12, 2019. REUTERS/Fernando Medina
Children play basketball with an installation by Spanish artists Martin and Sicilia during the 13th Havana Biennial, in Havana, Cuba April 12, 2019. REUTERS/Fernando Medina
A giant photograph of a boy by French photographer and artist JR is seen on a wall, during the 13th Havana Biennial, in Havana, Cuba April 12, 2019. REUTERS/Fernando Medina
A giant photograph of a boy by French photographer and artist JR is seen on a wall, during the 13th Havana Biennial, in Havana, Cuba April 12, 2019. REUTERS/Fernando Medina
Boys play with an installation by Cuban artist Arles del Rio during the 13th Havana Biennial, on the Malecon, in Havana, Cuba April 12, 2019. REUTERS/Fernando Medina
Boys play with an installation by Cuban artist Arles del Rio during the 13th Havana Biennial, on the Malecon, in Havana, Cuba April 12, 2019. REUTERS/Fernando Medina
People stand near colonnades decorated with papers by Cuban artist Elio Jesus Fonseca, during the 13th Havana Biennial, in Havana, Cuba April 12, 2019. REUTERS/Fernando Medina
People stand near colonnades decorated with papers by Cuban artist Elio Jesus Fonseca, during the 13th Havana Biennial, in Havana, Cuba April 12, 2019. REUTERS/Fernando Medina
People stand near colonnades decorated with papers by Cuban artist Elio Jesus Fonseca, during the 13th Havana Biennial, in Havana, Cuba April 12, 2019. REUTERS/Fernando Medina
People stand near colonnades decorated with papers by Cuban artist Elio Jesus Fonseca, during the 13th Havana Biennial, in Havana, Cuba April 12, 2019. REUTERS/Fernando Medina
People stand next to an installation by Spanish artist David Magan on the Malecon, during the 13th Havana Biennial, in Havana, Cuba April 13, 2019. REUTERS/Fernando Medina
People stand next to an installation by Spanish artist David Magan on the Malecon, during the 13th Havana Biennial, in Havana, Cuba April 13, 2019. REUTERS/Fernando Medina
Young Cubans take a picture with a work of art from Carrie Mae Weems, a New York-based American artist during the opening of an exhibition of her and other young US artists in Havana, Cuba, Saturday, April 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Young Cubans take a picture with a work of art from Carrie Mae Weems, a New York-based American artist during the opening of an exhibition of her and other young US artists in Havana, Cuba, Saturday, April 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Carrie Mae Weems, second from left, a New York-based American artist, talks with other young artists during the opening of an exhibition in Havana, Cuba, Saturday, April 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Carrie Mae Weems, second from left, a New York-based American artist, talks with other young artists during the opening of an exhibition in Havana, Cuba, Saturday, April 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
People walk around an art installation during the inauguration of the exhibition
People walk around an art installation during the inauguration of the exhibition "Behind the Wall," at the 13th Havana Biennial, in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Children play with hoses as part of an art installation during the inauguration of the exhibition
Children play with hoses as part of an art installation during the inauguration of the exhibition "Behind the Wall," at the 13th Havana Biennial, in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Children play with hoses as part of an art installation during the inauguration of the exhibition
Children play with hoses as part of an art installation during the inauguration of the exhibition "Behind the Wall," at the 13th Havana Biennial, in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
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