2017-01-23 14:57:09
Bronx Museum Won’t Get Loan of Art From Cuba

The second half of the Bronx Museum of the Arts’s long-planned exchange of artworks with the National Museum of Fine Arts in Cuba will not take place as expected, after Cuban officials declined to allow works to travel to the United States, the Bronx museum’s executive director, Holly Block, said.

Instead, the Bronx museum — which lent more than 80 works from its permanent collection to the National Museum in summer 2015, the first part of the two-country exhibition, “Wild Noise/Ruido Salvaje” — will mount a show of some 60 pieces drawn from public and private collections outside Cuba, representing many of the artists whose works would have come from the national collection.

Ms. Block said her Cuban counterparts at the National Museum did not say whether their hesitation stemmed from fears about possible diplomatic uncertainties under a Trump administration. “We didn’t get a no from them but we also didn’t get a final yes,” Ms. Block said. “So we decided that in good faith we’re going to do this exhibition instead.”

The second half of the exchange was originally scheduled for 2016, and was then rescheduled to open this month. It was delayed in part because of questions about whether state-owned art works from Cuba could be in danger of being seized while in the United States to satisfy legal claims by Americans whose property was confiscated in Cuba after Fidel Castro took power in 1959.

Late last year the State Department issued a ruling to give the works protection from seizure, lifting the Bronx Museum’s hopes that the show would happen. But by early this month, with no agreement from Cuba, Ms. Block said the museum decided it could no longer wait.

“We pushed as hard as we could,” she said, adding that curators from the National Museum were helping with the alternative show and that a loan of works from Cuba remained a distinct possibility in the future. Asked her feeling about the failure of the original show, which, with more than 100 works, would have been the largest collaboration between Cuban and United States museums in more than 50 years, she said, “I don’t want to call it disappointment because it’s been such a long process that we’re hopeful that it’s going to continue to foster cultural exchange.”

Ms. Block, who has traveled to Cuba for many years and long made the case that the island nation and the Bronx share important cultural and economic affinities, encountered resistance from some of the museum’s leadership in her push to make the show happen and to deepen ties with Cuba. Last August, two trustees resigned and publicly accused Ms. Block of a lack of transparency and of betraying the museum’s longtime focus on its borough. One of the departing trustees further accused Ms. Block of failing to inform the board that Cuba was unlikely to let artworks travel for the exchange.

In an interview last October, Ms. Block defended her plans and denied that claim. “The board was provided updates and information on the Cuba project on a regular basis,” she said, adding, “People outside the museum thought we’d never be able to successfully loan works to Cuba, and we did.”

The newly conceived exhibition, which will retain the title “Wild Noise/Ruido Salvaje,” will open Feb. 17 and will feature works by more than 30 artists, including Tania Bruguera, Los Carpinteros, Kcho, Glenda León, Ana Mendieta, Wilfredo Prieto and Humberto Díaz. The show, with many works that have never been displayed publicly before, will continue through July 4.