Cuba opens first big U.S. art exhibit since 1980s

Sat Mar 28, 2009 4:12pm EDT
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By Rosa Tania Valdes

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba on Saturday opened its first big group exhibit of American art since the 1980s amid hopes it would inspire better relations between the United States and the communist-run island.

The show "Chelsea visits Havana" presents works from more than 30 artists representing New York City's Chelsea district and includes paintings, photographs, sculptures, installations and videos.

"Incredibly, we did it. I think it's an incredible first step," said Alberto Magnan, principal curator and a Cuban-American who owns a Chelsea art gallery.

The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama "did not impede the show and I hope that when he sees this it will inspire him to do something" to improve U.S.-Cuba relations, Magnan said.

Obama has said he would ease a 47-year-old trade embargo against Cuba and take steps toward normalizing relations with the island just 90 miles from Florida.

The embargo, which was tightened under former U.S. President George W. Bush, has prevented much interchange between the countries. Vice President Joe Biden said at a meeting in Chile on Saturday that Washington would not lift the embargo.

The last large U.S. group exhibit in Cuba was presented in 1986.

The current show includes a piece called "Castrobama" by Padraig Tarrant that shows cutout profiles of Obama and former Cuban leader Fidel Castro facing each other.   Continued...

<p>An artist works underneath paintings which are part of the exhibition "Chelsea visits Havana," in Havana March 24, 2009. The work of more than 30 U.S. artists representing New York City's Chelsea district will be displayed March 28 through May 17. REUTERS/Enrique De La Osa</p>