Buying Art in Havana

Since we had a late night, we barely made our 10AM breakfast the next morning, but needed the fuel for our buying art in Havana expedition. It was largely the same as the breakfast we had the first day, and still delicious – a Western scramble, crepes, fresh fruit, juice, bread, and coffee. I have to say, these large breakfasts were clutch for us and made it possible to power through most of the day before getting hungry.

We checked out and put our luggage on the 3rd floor in a corner in storage while we again walked around the Old City. This time, our quest for art panned out. We met a couple our age – Michon and Baby – right outside the Archbishop’s residence, and they were super friendly and made conversation with us because of Dave’s “Viva la Relativity” t-shirt.

Square outside the Archbishop's residence

Square outside the Archbishop’s residence

They though it said “Viva la Revoluciòn” but when we pointed out it was a picture of Einstein, they got the joke. Michon spoke decent English and Baby bizarrely enough studied Mandarin in school (but no English). They took us around to a few galleries nearby and we really enjoyed getting to know them. They were excited to see the Pope (who was to arrive in two days, on 19 Sep), and they lived in the square that the Archibishop had his residence in.

After parting with them, we hit several other galleries that were closed the night before, and found a few real candidates for buying art in Havana.


We continued looking but eventually came back to two and made purchases. The first was a tiny shop with the art of two struggling painters, one of whom we spent a long time talking with. His paintings bordered on the abstract, but you could still find meaning and see things in them. He explained some of the themes he liked to play with, and his interpretation of the paintings, which only made us like them more. Dave eventually bought a large painting that had elements of the things your mother taught you but you forgot – like treating other people well, interconnectedness through good karma, and uplifting each other. He also told us that if we turned the painting on its side, we could see a woman. 😉

Artist with painting

We paid 120 CUC and didn’t try to negotiate because we liked it and him so much, and could tell he really needed to sell some paintings (think starving artist). He said he had some upcoming exhibitions in Canada, and had some connections in New York that he was trying to work on. It was a great experience for us – we enjoyed learning about the man as much as his art, and we parted with one final lesson.

There was a loaf of bread hanging outside his workshop – we had seen this before at one of the fancier galleries near the Archbishop’s residence and had been trying to noodle through the significance ever since. We were told by this artist that it was a constant reminder of the nourishment our bodies received through hard work, and also the transubstantiation of the body of Christ. I told him that I thought it meant that art was for the mind and soul as bread was for the body. He agreed and said he never thought of it that way. We liked our explanation better.

Bread outside gallery in Havana

Bread outside gallery in Havana

Just after that, we returned to another gallery where a few pieces caught my eye. We ended up buying three pieces and negotiating a medium amount. The two I bought were abstract representations of Afrocubana, green, orange, and yellow (framed pictures coming soon). Dave bought a signed print of Hemingway and Castro as a more literal souvenir of Cuba. We loved this gallery because it was a family’s home, with crazy art and pictures all over the place, crazy mismatched furniture, lots of different colors, and two very lazy, fat cats. It was called Martalena, and here’s the info:

  • Martalena – Estudia De PIntura
  • Cuarteles No. 64
  • e/ Habana y Aguiar
  • Habana Vieja
  • La Habana, Cuba
  • Phone: 7861 9460

IMG_6031 IMG_6030There was one final art gallery that we liked, but that we didn’t buy anything at. It’s still worth visiting if you have some time and you’re looking for art in Havana:



About therestlessroad

The tar in the street starts to melt from the heat And the sweats runnin’ down from my hair I walked 20 miles and I’m dragging my feet And I’ll walk 20 more I don’t care And I’ll wander this world, wander this world Wander this world, wander this world all alone I’m like a ghost some people can’t see Others drive by and stare A shadow that drifts by the side of the road It’s like I’m not even there And I’ll wander this world, wander this world Wander this world, wander this world all alone Well I’ve never been part of the game The life that I live is my own All that I know is that I was born To wander this world all alone, all alone Some people are born with their lives all laid out And all their success is assured Some people work hard all their lives for nothin’ They take it and don’t say a word They don’t say a word Sometimes it’s like I don’t even exist Even God has lost track of my soul Why else would he leave me out here like this To wander this world all alone And I’ll wander this world, wander this world Wander this world, wander this world all alone –Jonny Lang, “Wander This World”

3 thoughts on “Buying Art in Havana

  1. […] queued up in the security line with my backpack and his Duty Free bag (and the artwork we had bought in Cuba) and started making our way. Then, one of the security officers made an announcement that if you […]

  2. Hi,
    I read that all the art that is exported from Cuba, requires some government stamp. Have you gotten it from the artists??

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