“Cuba es por Cultura.” Dance, Photography, Fashion and Music in Havana

by Chris Murray on November 30, 2017

I went to Havana a couple of weeks ago to pick up Ted Russell’s photographs of Bob Dylan from the extraordinary exhibition earlier this year at Fototeca de Cuba, Cuba’s national photo gallery. As always seems to be the case, there were several compelling creative projects going on during my visit.

Gran Teatro de la Habana.

My first afternoon, I went by the Gran Teatro de la Habana and saw that the Festival Internacional de Danza Espanola y Flamenco was on. I purchased a ticket and that evening saw the Gala Flamenca, which blew my mind. What a treat to see 17 extraordinary flamenco dancers in such a stunning setting.

The next day, I went to Plaza Vieja to pick up the Dylan prints at Fototeca de Cuba. While at Fototeca de Cuba, I marveled at German photographer Katharina Sieverding’s exhibition, arte y capital, which was on display.

Plaza Vieja.

That evening was an exhibition launch at Galeria Francis Picabia at the Alianza Francesca de Cuba on Palacio de Prado of my friends, Liudmila & Nelson’s photography exhibition, La Habana y el Tiempo. I have shown Nelson and Liudmila’s photographs at Govinda Gallery, and it was a great pleasure to see my friends and their terrific exhibition.

Liudmila and Nelson at the opening of their show, La Habana y el Tiempo.

The next evening, I went to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, which was hosting a runway show featuring original fashion by Latin American designers inspired by paintings and sculpture from the museum’s collection. It was another amazing display of Cuba’s thriving cultural scene. My friend Nelson Ramirez de Arellano Conde was on hand photographing the show, along with his daughter Sophia.

The crowd at Arte y Moda.

Cuban models on the runway at Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.

I had heard about the fashion show, and as the museum is right behind Parque Central hotel where I was staying, I went to see if I could attend the event. I was most fortunate to run into Jorge Rivas Rodriguez, a prominent arts & theatre critic in Havana, who invited me to join him. I was able to sit in the front row with the esteemed writer.


Writer & art critic, Jorge Rivas Rodriguez.

On Saturday morning, I took a car to visit my dear friend, photographer Roberto Salas. Roberto is one of the most highly regarded photographers in modern Cuban photographic history. He was one of the five or six “epic photographers” who documented the Cuban revolution. Roberto had a critically acclaimed, one-person exhibition of his photographs at Govinda Gallery in 2003. It is always a great pleasure to sit with Roberto in his home and enjoy his company.


Chris Murray with photographer Roberto Salas in Miramar.


Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, Havana, 1959. Photograph by Roberto Salas.

My last magical evening in Cuba this visit, I was invited to a very special program at Havana’s dynamic rock club, Submarino Amarillo, just across the street from the John Lennon Park. Cuba’s classical piano maestro and legend, Frank Fernandez, was performing at the intimate venue with a rock & roll band for the first time. Everyone in Havana interested in music was talking about the collaboration. I was so fortunate to have my friend, Guille Villar, the number one advocate for great rock music in Cuba, to invite me to the event. I was honored to be able to attend such a special gig. Thank you, Guille.

Chris Murray with pianist Frank Fernandez backstage after his performance at Submarino Amarillo.

Maestro Frank Fernandez first played a solo program of classical music, and then was joined by the Sweet Lizzie Project. The packed crowd, with standing room only, loved the gig. What a great night in Havana!


All photos and video by Chris Murray.

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