14ymedio, Havana, 12 August 2017 — The artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara has places the Manzana Kempinski Hotel in the center of its actions. This time he was photographed with an enormous sledge hammer poised a few inches from the window of the Giorgio G. VIP store in the gallery located on the ground floor of the exclusive accommodation.
The controversial creator explained to 14ymedio that the shop he chose “is super expensive” and inside “a garment or accessory costs 300 times the salary of a Cuban,” a reason that led him to select the place that, in addition, has “ties to the hotel.”
The artistic action is the third of the series With All and for the Sake of a Few that Otero has been engaged in since the inauguration of the Kempinski Manzana, managed by a Swiss company and the Gaviota Group which is controlled by the Cuban military.
The provocative image of the creator, sledge hammer in hand, was published on the social network Facebook and is entitled What Michelangelo Pistoletto did not think of, referring to the exhibition of the outstanding Italian artist in Havana. Among the most well-known pieces of this painter and art theorist, there is a performance art piece in which he smashes a mirror with a sledge hammer.
“Pistoletto’s work speaks of the deconstruction of the image, but my call is more to action than to representation. To destroy the real and not the representation of the image,” details the Cuban creator. Although he recognizes that it is only the “space of the threat” and that “the threat becomes a real event.”
“In the end it’s about that, how to do it without doing it, how to break it without breaking it,” he says.
Pistoletto alludes in his piece to “breaking the glass, breaking the institution” but the Cuban wants to pulverize that space “outside the institution, an allusion to the dichotomy of the world of art that does not go abroad and stays in its bubble, elitist, and it does not go out.”
The main idea of the series carried out by Otero is precisely to “break the border” that separates Cubans on the island from the exclusive accommodation, especially because of the low wages workers receive on the island.
Recently, the young artist held a raffle in which he sold 250 numbers at a price of 2 CUC each (about 17 months average salary in Cuba), to cover one night’s accommodation in the luxurious facility, the only five-star plus hotel in the country.
With 500 convertible pesos collected, the raffle winner checked into the Manzana Kempinski Hotel and shared with the organizers the images of his stay in the luxurious property.
In the first part of the series, the artist settled in the gallery of luxury shops on the ground floor and placed a sign at his feet asking, “Where is Mella?” with an image on his head of the communist leader Julio Antonio Mella, whose sculpture was removed after the restoration of the property.
For Otero, the building has become “the symbol of that visual rupture within Old Havana” where “the supposed capitalism that is entering the country” touches down.