14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 24 May 2021 — On Monday, a group of Cuban artists demanded of the director of the National Museum of Fine Arts, Jorge Fernández Torres, that all the works of their authorship be withdrawn from exhibition until Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara is released from the Calixto García Hospital in Havana, where he has been held for 22 days.
In an open letter, Tania Bruguera, Sandra Ceballos, Tomás Sánchez, Marco Castillo, Reinier Leyva Novo and the duo Celia and Yunior — Celia González and Yunior Aguiar — asked, “under the Copyright Law,” that their works “are covered in such a way as to impede their communication with the public, and that those that are not exhibited but that belong to the collection also be removed from the Museum’s website.”
Apart from the “immediate release” of Otero Alcántara, the artists demand “a guarantee of access for his family, friends and colleagues to his residence” at 955 Damas Street, in Old Havana, “to check his physical and mental health” as well as the elimination of the police cordon “that has been in place since November 2020.”
In the letter, they also point out that the “detention” situation in which Otero Alcántara finds himself “is illegal” and they appeal the response to the petition for habeas corpus presented on May 5 in his name noting that the artist “is not under arrest, nor being prosecuted.” In addition, they specify that when he was taken to the hospital he was carrying out “a peaceful hunger and thirst strike through which he expressed demands that so far have not been met.” That is, the return of his works illegally confiscated by state agents on April 16, compensation for the damaged or destroyed works, and the cessation of police harassment.
In conversation with 14ymedio, the artist Tania Bruguera stated that to her it is “important to make a gesture, which, although symbolic, makes it clear that there is a group of artists who are going to stand in solidarity with a colleague” who is the victim of repressive acts. She believes that “we are in times in which it is not possible to continue looking away” because that “could mean the lives of our colleagues.”
“Remembering the poem by José Martí that says: ‘if that is the flag, I don’t know, I cannot enter there’. Because if Luis Manuel is kidnapped in a hospital, I don’t know, I cannot have my work in the Museum of Fine Arts,” she said. “We cannot continue to fail to see the correlation that exists between the privileges that some artists have and the lack of privileges and rights that others have,” concluded Bruguera.
The document, delivered to the institution this Monday morning by one of the signers, the artist Celia González, and the curator Solveig Font, is open to more artists to sign, if they so wish.
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