14ymedio, Havana, 25 December 2017 — Restless, hyperactive, media-focused and irreverent, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara (b. 1987, Havana) turned 30 this year in the midst of an unstoppable and controversial artistic work.
With his proposal With All And For The Good Of A Few he created three artistic interventions centered on the luxurious hotel Manzana Kempinski. In the first of them, he questioned the disappearance of the bust of the communist leader Julio Antonio Mella, who had previously been placed on the site of the hotel development; in the second he brandished a sledgehammer a few centimeters from the window of an exclusive store on the ground floor of the building; and in the third he held a raffle with the prize being a night in the only five-star hotel in the country.
In each case, Otero Alcántara sought to denounce the enormous economic gap that separates Cubans from foreign visitors who stay in these luxury hotels.
Born in the Havana municipality of Cerro, the artist is currently awaiting trial after being accused of the alleged crime of “receiving” for possessing construction materials without the correct documentation, according to the authorities. Bags of cement and other aggregates were confiscated during a search of his home.
This year Otero Alcántara and other artists began a campaign to hold the Havana #00Bienal, scheduled for May 2018, in response to the decision of the Ministry of Culture to postpone for one year the most important plastic arts event in Cuba “because of the damages caused by Hurricane Irma.”
The initiative earned a wake-up call from the Cuban Writers and Artists Union, expressed in a note distributed through institutional emails, which warned its members about “some unscrupulous people” who are organizing an independent Biennial.
This December the artist was arrested while making a pilgrimage to the Sanctuary consecrated to San Lázaro in El Rincón, south of the Cuban capital. After being detained for 72 hours, he was released and resumed his pilgrimage to demand democracy and freedom for the Island, which ended successfully on December 20.
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