Cuba’s creative hubs: Inside the Havana art scene

There’s no doubt that vintage cars and music bars have stood fast on the tourist checklist, but due to Cuba’s recent art boom, artistic honey pots are now forming behind the old world glamour. Tucked away within gritty industrial factories, intimate studios and the homes of well-heeled collectors, Havana‘s creative hubs are leading the way for artistic sophistication. Whether dining amidst the decor of an internationally renowned artist or perusing installations in a club, the Havana art scene offers some surprising underground attractions.

Inside the Havana art scene
There’s plenty of street art to discover all over Havana © iStock / Nikada

Fabrica del Arte

 

A multi-space former oil factory, Fabrica del Arte has become a trendy evening haunt for drinks, dancing, live music and beguiling art. The founder, X Alfonso – who is also one of Cuba’s most influential fusion musicians – brought together his inspirations from European musical venues and his network of creatives in what is essentially a highly curated labour of love. Order a rum infused cocktail and peruse works by some of Cuba’s most high profile artists and exciting emerging talent, while wandering through vast rooms and intimate corners of graffiti, moving projections and light installations.

 

Calle 26, Esquina 11, Vedado, La Habana

 

Damian Aquiles and Pamela Ruiz’s dinner parties

 

Renowned Cuban artist, Damian Aquiles and his American wife Pamela Ruiz are the king and queen of dinner parties in Havana. While Damian has artfully brought to life their enviably stylish villa, Ruiz plays hostess to the country’s major art collectors, cultural figures and also those fortunate enough to grace her pre-revolutionary wallpapered hallways, mid-century furniture and chandelier-adorned dining room. Tuck into homemade paella and sip on refreshing mojitos while chatting with Cuba’s artistic cream of the crop.

 

Esencia Experiences operates a range of private tours and cultural experiences in Havana.

Inside the Havana art scene
The buildings in Havana’s Hamel Alley feature some beautiful street art © iStock / driftlessstudio

Café Madrigal

 

A popular neighbourhood bar, Café Madrigal is one of the leading venues to open after Raul Castro’s latest reform program kicked in. The 20th century mansion in the leafy Vedado neighbourhood is dimly lit with kooky artefacts, antique furniture and art house posters hanging on exposed red brick walls. The scene feels set for the next Hemingway to stroll in, and perhaps there might be one amidst its crowd of intellectuals and cinema loving habaneros picking on platters of tapas and discussing films.

 

Calle 17 No 302 between Calles 2 & 4, La Habana

 

Artists’ studios

 

Visiting a range of artists’ studios has become a compulsory activity for those looking to uncover the Havana art scene, but you don’t have to know the difference between polychrome plaster and gelatine prints to be suitably enthralled. Dotted around the city, a range of up-and-coming painters, sculptors and illustrators are pioneering the creative movement in modernist fashion. From works by well-known avante garde artist, Esterio Segura to female collective 7y60, visitors can make appointments at each studio, and perhaps even pick up a piece of modern Cuban art to take home.

 

Esencia Experiences operates a range of private tours and cultural experiences in Havana.

Inside the Havana art scene
The iconic image of Che Guevara can be found all over Havana © iStock / StreetMuse

Fototeca de Cuba

 

Cuba’s largest and most valuable archive of photography, Fototeca de Cuba, houses around 14,000 images displaying the country’s photogenic heroes who have shaped Havana, both graphically and artistically. Attracting a crowd of well-established artists, most of whom gather here on a regular basis to use the gallery’s communal darkroom, a visit here also offers the opportunity to meet some of Cuba’s leading contemporary artists. In November 2015, the gallery celebrates its collective of works and invites guests to join in photography workshops, guided visits around the exhibitions and a series of panels and lectures.

 

Mercaderes No 307, La Habana

 

Eye of the Hurricane

 

The name “˜Ojo de Cyclone’ (Eye of the Hurricane) indeed reflects this whimsical gallery, workshop and studio owned by artist Leo D’lazaro. It’s an intriguing, creative space filled with sculptures, paintings, musical instruments and quirky memorabilia. Locals and visitors flock to and stumble upon this low-key refuge to revel in wholesome, unhampered creativity, where creative writing groups and tango lessons are not uncommon, as are lively games of dominoes and table football. Alternatively, simply kick back with a drink (it’s BYO) and listen to an impromptu jam session.

 

501 O’Reilly, La Habana

Inside the Havana art scene
Many local artisits sell their work on Prado street © iStock / ArtMarie

Virgin Atlantic operates direct flights to Havana from London Heathrow, bringing these creative hubs closer to home.

 

Have you visited any of these creative spaces in Cuba? What do you most enjoy about the Havana art scene? Let us know in the comments section below.

 

Written by Sacha Harrison

About Sacha Harrison

Sacha Harrison has been dedicated to luxury lifestyle and travel, selling bespoke trips around the world and writing articles for the likes of Matches Fashion, Lost Guides and Country & Townhouse Magazine amongst others. Rookiecreative.com is her creative baby, essentially a platform for up and coming artists and London lifestyle.
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