Artist Statement: Catherine Coan

PANO2.jpg Catherine Coan is an artist, hybrid taxidermist, writer, and professor living in Los Angeles. She was a judge on the AMC TV series Immortalized.

Her hybrid mammals explore the intersections between nature and humanity.  In “I’m Game,” imaginary creatures perch on human furniture in domestic spaces, asking the viewer to engage with the animal inside. Surprising details and a sense of humor which is at once dark and life-affirming invite guests to linger, becoming part of each tableau.


The Canary Suicides are meditations on captivity, miniature embodiment, the pet as fetish, and the relationship between death and delight.  They are influenced by the medieval reliquary; the work of mice who’ve made tiny, perfect replicas of some of Rauschenberg and Kienholz’s most well-known assemblages; and Coan’s mother and grandmother, who bred and kept many healthy, self-actualized canaries trained in calligraphy, origami, algebra, and bridge.  Each Canary Suicide contains hidden money, a suicide note, and a pet owned by the resident canary, along with unique surprises.



Outside In II: Artist Statement


Outside in II is a continuation of my desire to explore the past and present through the perspective of an immigrant. In addition, with the proliferation of technology, I want to help my audience to be able to take a step back and appreciate their analog surroundings. Lastly, I hope my art help spread happiness.
It is an extension of the previous show. in addition, i want to capture different facets of life.
whether it be nature, city life, or architecture, i want my art to remind the audience the expanse of our world.
we live in a time where we have the ability to digitally connect with anyone in the world. however,
it feels like it is getting lonelier. i hope my work remind the audience of the richness of our surrounding regardless or place and time.

Phil Kho "Outside In" Revisited

The last time we exhibited Phil Kho's mixed media works at the Lois Lambert Gallery was back in July 2014. As we welcome him back to the gallery for the continuation of this theme with "Outside In II", we thought we would take a look back at the incredible beginnings of this insightful concept 4.jpg

The Lois Lambert Gallery presents “Outside In,” the work of Phil Kho. Kho gathers inspiration from the traditional Korean lattice structure, “Chang-sal” as a means of connecting the old and the new. In a constantly changing world, replete with perpetual technological advancement, Kho wishes to emphasize the human longing to connect with history and culture.

Working in mixed media, he melds digital and

analog approaches to create one-of-a-kind window paintings. His process begins by 5.jpgconstructing the window itself out of wood and interjecting digital images on canvas, which he then paints over. This multi-layered technique lends itself to Phil’s greater message of embracing past, present and future.

A second theme found in Kho’s work deals with environment and surroundings. The literal representation of a window calls attention to the outdoors and nature. Through the window form, Phil emphasizes openness of mind; and with a rich color palette, he highlights the boldness of city and landscapes.

In this collection, Kho’s windows play with perception and illusion, evoking a sense of dimension and depth. With his juxtaposition of analog and digital media, Phil underscores the duality within culture and calls the viewer to reexamine his or her environment.


If you missed the show last time, now is your chance to see his new work and appreciate just how much the concept has evolved. The work will be on display until September 4th.

An Artist's Work: Amy Hill

A gallery walk through with artist Amy Hill as she discusses her work piece-by-piece and her inspiration with Lois Lambert and Assistant Director, Maria Guerrero.


Maria: So you mean the original that you referenced?

Yes all of these reference a particular thing, each one. The artist referenced on this one is an unknown artist and he was originally holding ... something that was heart shaped, I can't remember what it was, like a card or something but I replaced it with a telephone or really a tablet, I think its too big to be a telephone.


Maria: Do you ever look into that particular painting's history, the towns it was made in or any other kind of information, does that ever influence you?

Yes. There are symbols that were uses doves and lilies were the biggest symbols they used... it was always something that indicated what they did for a living. So that one I mean actually if you google renaissance painting, you could find the original.

What is the building behind this one?

It's supposed to be a library or something but you know I just updated the original building from the original painting. It looked like a library to me. But the library doesn't really have to do with the tablet.

It doesn't have to.

Maria: Does it usually?


It's just about where the person happens to be?

Yeah, and there were columns, now a days we don't really have columns, but I think that libraries do and I like libraries.


Lois: And why the Betty Boop?

Betty Boop because my sweater had something on it, because she is a current phenomenon that people wear, you know logos instead of ruffles. And jewelry, we don't have a lot. We wear GAP clothing and sometimes on the GAP clothing is a little logo, its frustrating because we don't have that anymore.

This woman was holding the bible, and I put a more contemporary book. My neighbor posed for me and she was wearing a Tweetie Bird jacket and the head was taken from the original head.


Lois: Whats LA29?

That was on the original jacket

What contemporary book did you reference?

No particular book. Oh no it is the bible, You know when I was painting I was listening to the bible, an audio version of the bible and I got really into the bible.

Lois: How do you get that so small? (the print painted on the book)

You know what my eye sight is pretty bad right because of all my painting.

Maria:  All the details?

I mean these are not the glasses I wear, I wear two glasses at one time. I put them on top of each other!

Maria: Is this a specific location, the shop front?

No, it isn't

Maria: But there is a reference to an espresso here...

Yeah, I think there may have been stores in the back.


Again, the original had a necklace but this is Michael Kohrs, and I hate to say it but people buy paintings with cats in them.

This is from a different painting totally by Han Memling, if you know him, but this is not a Memling character, it was taken from another painting, but this is the original jacket, I just liked it so much that I copied it even though its not really... and in the original she was wearing a striped shirt like that which I thought looked very contemporary. That's what really appeals to me about these paintings, is seeing what contemporary  clothing we still have.

Which is funny because this starts to look like a vintage jacket, very contemporary for us to do...


I did that in one other painting, like this is a black jean jacket and I had a friend...I went over to her apartment and I said, just, you know pose for me with something, she picked up her camera and I loved the way the hands were, so I did it.  This is made up. There's an original Memling painting, again Memling is the main source, the Memling painting had building but they weren't contemporary buildings. I just took buildings and made them look contemporary.

But its funny because I can easily say, oh, that looks like I'm off the freeway in Irvine, or something like that here in California. Like its a very similar landscape.


That's funny, I never even thought of doing that. Again this is the original sleeve, but this is a denim, I mean down vest that somebody posed for me, and again the buildings are more like apartment buildings. And her hair is exactly the same. I gave her a headband. And the face is the same.

She was looking down and I opened her eyes. One thing you can say about these paintings is that they never looked at the audience. They were always kind of looking inward, towards God. Toward him, like a prayer because they were all religious icons.

Because their gaze isn't directly at you it is almost like they're spacing out.


Right, but I like, he is wearing a walk man, so they are thinking about whats in the music. This again, my same friend, she had some pills so I had her pose with pills and there was like a tree here, and I turned it into McDonalds. And there was a church here and I just updated the church a little bit.


This one again a denim jacket because I think they are very decorative and metropolitan pin and do you recognize David Bowie and the hills are similar to the other hills.


This one was a nun and I love the background but I put more modern buildings, and I went to this punk celebration where I took pictures of punky people, this is what one of the girls was wearing with all this..[pointing at the pins]she had sex pistols and archie comics and this was when obama was running for president.

But the hair you changed...

Definitely, she had a nun thing on and one thing about the renaissance is that they were bad at ears, like there's hardly any ears in the whole renaissance. So you know, it was like covering the ears so I had to work on people's ears a lot.


This is almost exactly the head, I put him in a Ramones T-shirt, and then I put buildings in the background.


This is like Icebreakers chewing gum, I just like the logo, the graphic, she has updated buildings and updated earrings and her hair is different but the face is almost the same.


This is a Memling face with a new hair-do. I have models come over sometimes with hair. She was working at a store near me and I liked her look, so I invited her over and she had this kind of hair and this is a flash-drive that I had lying around. I was so mad that I had lost all the information on it. It died but I still had it lying around.

Like a commemoration...

Yeah. This is suburbia, I like suburbia, as an updated landscape.

This one I went to Macy's to find clothing and you can return at Macy's. So I bought this Ed Hardy thing and I just had some one pose in it and then I returned it. Because I love Ed Hardy. Even though hes not trendy now..

Hollister is so boring...Everything is boring now

This is from the original painting and I don't remember the name of the artist. And I drew in punky jewelry I add jewelry to everything And this is the east village were in the east village. Yeah I took this from google i mages.SHE NOT LOOKING AT THE CAMERA THISis more of the inner gaze.

THIS ONE I LOVE LOGOS. so I looked up what had the most logos and it was the NASCAR jackets and she had to be holding something contemporary.

You gave hera achase ard!...

So I gave her a chase card and she has an ear. She is also looking off into space. n

This was a prist and he had a priest head. THi sione is my bfs hair when it was shorter. This is a great ful dead t shirt. He was holding a flower originally [in the origianl painitng] and I kept because I felt like a hipie would be holding a flower.

These are anti-deppressents...Red Hot Chillie Peppers... and this is suberbia and this is not a Memling its some other  artist that I really liked. this is a jacket that I own

And this is the gaze up as well but because shes listening to her music and this might be east vilalge in new york

I dont know do you hava nay questions

Yeah? One is how do you feel how these as a collection start to comment on popular culture?

Well its about materialism...I guess. Advertising with the use of the logos. Its about time travel. Its an anthropological study because I would love to go back in time and see if peaople look the same and are ther similarities? And alot of people think they are contemproary peaopl.

But theyre not theyre made up...theyr e like puzzle piees...

Rgiht but a ew  of the faces are from that era and yet kyou caould down  the street and spot someone like that.

Completely. The fact that use this bottle of anti-depressants or the bottle of Nature's Made vitamins.It s a commentary on what we do. but it also makes up an idenotity. Like this is gilr interrupted, with her anti-depressants and her hoodie sweater and her Red Hot Chillie Pepper shirt.

But I leave that to the viewer I dont want to dictate anything so you know  I dont hink of that very often.

I think thats interdrting and the way tyou said it is best that its more of an anthropological observation on your part.

Right. That's the fun part of it. And just putting it al ltogether and seeing what happens. Not all of them are successful...

It's definitely not done in a vacuum and because it is valid data that you collect from your observations there are conclusions that we can draw from it for sure..

But there is also the aesthetics. I'm very concerned about how things look together. I use my computer a lot to re-adjust and play around. I want them to be pretty, too.

Well I remember when we spoke over the phone you spoke about how a lot of the draw to the t shirts and even people  who specifically where more from an alternative  subculture, because their clothing was just more interesting to paint. It was almost like a formal decision like "I just want to paint these figures". 

Right. Right. Exactly. That's why I hate trends now. There is nothing exciting now. I dont wanto paint sweatshirts.

What will happen to your art if everyone is minimalistic clothing. What will happen to your art.

I've also done gothic people that was great and theyre not from the mainstream. Well you know even your shirt, I could paint that. Thre are still things thatwe wear today that I do love.

Great. Well thank you Amy.

Well good thank you.

The work of Amy Hill

  Amy Hill's artist statement reveals the concepts and motivations behind this New York based painter's engaging works.


"My paintings are updates of works from earlier eras. I choose these eras because of my stylistic kinship with their artists, which allows me to carry on a kind of dialogue with them. Each era brings up a particular theme that I trace to the present day. I have chosen portraiture as it is a genre that runs through art history and allows me through poses, gestures and fashion detail to make social, psychological and anthropological statements about my subjects. Humor emerges through the juxtaposition of modern day fashion and historical figures.


In my Biker paintings I relate the fanciful dress and dramatic lighting of Rembrandtesque images to present day bikers and heavy metal musicians with their long hair, tattoos and ornate clothing.In addressing Renaissance works, because many of the figures from this era are depicted in poses of prayer or worship, I paint my subjects worshipping secular things such as digital devicThe folk artists were predominantly concerned with family and children. The children are often depicted as innocents holding cuddly animals in bucolic settings. In updating these paintings I show urban children influenced by such phenomena as branding, drugs and materialism.



Sneak Peek: Why we are excited about our up coming artists

Before Saturday evening's opening at the Lois Lambert Gallery, here is a glimpse at the three artist and their latest works that will be on display through September forth.

Phil Kho

pkhoPhil Kho received his BA in visual communication at Hong Ik University in Seoul, Korea; his MFA in graphic design from California State University, Los Angeles; and his MS in visual communication at Pratt School of Art and Design in New York. He spent eight years as a professor of design in the fine arts department at the University of Suwon in Seoul. Kho has been an urban designer for over 20 years and an artist for over 50 years. He has written 10 books and dozens of articles on urban design. He currently resides and works in Koreatown.

Phil Kho's Postcard

Inspired by varied artists from past and present such as architect Frank Gehry to the more interdisciplinary artist Bruce Nauman, Kho’s use of mixed media calls to mind our culture’s image saturated world. The usage of the window as a framing device brings to attention the duality of inside and outside. The vibrant color palette of his work emphasizes the vividness of our world. These recent works display a further exploration of the previous themes Kho has been invested in

Amy Hill



Amy Hill graduated from Carnegie Melon in graphic design. She lives and works in New York City, New York. Her work has appeared in galleries in New York and across the country.In this collection, Hill has utilized the aesthetic of both the classical and the modern in a format that compels the viewer to contrast contemporary and traditional notions of status and beauty

"My paintings are updates of works from earlier eras. I choose these eras because of my stylistic kinship with their artists, which allows me to carry on a kind of dialogue with them. Each era brings up a particular theme that I trace to the present day. I have chosen portraiture as it is a genre that runs through art history and allows me through poses, gestures and fashion detail to make social, psychological and anthropological statements about my subjects. Humor emerges through the juxtaposition of modern day fashion and historical figures."


Catherine Coan



Catherine Coan is an artist, hybrid taxidermist, writer, and professor living in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in galleries in LA and across the country. She was a judge on the AMC TV series Immortalized.


“I’m Game” will bring you into an alternate universe where Victorian drawing rooms are inhabited with hybrid animals running wild. Coan’s work invites you to a whole new experience, one where you might laugh, be scared, feel delight, confront death, let your imagination run wild…the possibilities are endless.


Join us for the opening, Saturday July 16th at 6pm to meet the artist and see these wonderful works in person.

Leading US Collector of Cuban Art Predicts Gold Rush in Nation’s Contemporary Work

Originally published by the Observer 2014

By Nate Freeman

“There are people who have been waiting 50 years for this,” said art collector Howard Farber. But Mr. Farber, who is one of the leading, if not the leading, collector of Contemporary Cuban art in America, has just been waiting almost 15 years.

Reached at his home, Mr. Farber said he was surprised and delighted at the news that Presi- dent Obama is seeking to normalize relations with the nation just 90 miles from Miami.

Over the past 15 years, Mr. Farber and his wife Patricia have amassed the Farber collection of about 200 works. They went down to the island at about the turn of the last century and were struck by the variety and virility ofAngel de la Guarda.-2014-Acrilico sobre lienzo-90 x 110 cm the avant-garde work produced in Havana

since the embargo, said Mr. Farber, primarily work done in the 1980s and 1990s.

After that, the couple began to ease off collecting contemporary Chinese art – a hobby which had proven highly rewarding, in several ways — and go full Cuban. They now own dozens of paintings, toured many in a 2007-2010 exhibition a Cuba Avant-Garde: Contemporary Cuban Art from The Farber Collection, and he now publishes Cuban Art News, and gives out the Cuban Art Awards.

“I’m quite shocked,” Mr. Farber said of the formal reconciliation between the two countries. “It’s the type of thing that I’ve been waiting for... There are some fabulous artists down there who have waited a long time: they’ve been stuck on an island, and we’ve been stuck in [this] country.”

The Farber Collection includes work by celebrated Cuban artists such as Kcho, Manuel Mendive, and Los Carpinteros.

While it’s not too hard to get to Cuba by obtaining a special permit, or by flying in through Canada or Mexico, transporting canvas has always been prohibitively complicated.

“Buying art from Cuba has always been difficult - or, I should say that it’s easy to buy the art, but how do you get it back here?” said. Mr. Farber. “Some of the early works I got, the route we took to get them back, I wish they had frequent flyer miles! The whole world has been supporting Cuban art except the United States, because it’s so difficult to get there and back.”

The policy shift should change things quickly (even if, at the moment, the embargo on shipping more than $400 in goods have not yet been lifted). The streams of tourists are going


to hop on quick flights early and often, and when the collectors come along with them, it’s going to be a gold rush.A_1

“Ninety percent of the people have never seen new Cuban works except at some fairs, and they haven’t seen a great variety,” he said. “You’re going to get tourists, and you’re going to get art collectors. This is going to make collectors try and find out more about it, and that’s what’s important. It won’t be hiding in the shadows anymore.”

But while today’s historic developments certainly end the bitter staring contest between the two countries, not every restriction has been lifted: you can’t technically just travel to

Cuba as a tourist, not quite yet. So there’s still work to be done.

The President’s move could also impact the art world’s biggest event, the annual Art Basel Miami Beach. Previously, the hoops that visitors have to jump through to get to Havana have put off the finicky, and so the tradewinds have carried art stars to St. Barths or Tulum instead.

Now, thanks to President Obama’s decision to restore full diplomacy with our cigar-loving frenemies, that could all change

Art Collectors Predict "Stampede" to Cuba

Originally Published by the Wall Street Journal 2014

Art Collectors Predict ‘Stampede’ to Cuba

With the U.S. and Cuba restoring diplomatic ties, some art-world cognoscenti are betting that the tiny island could become the next hot corner of the global art market

By Kelly Crow

With the U.S. and Cuba restoring diplomatic ties, some art-world cognoscenti are betting that the tiny island could become the next hot corner of the global art market.

Collectors in the U.S. have been circling - and collecting - Cuban art for years, thanks to a little-known exception to the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba that makes it legal for Americans to buy Cuban art, which the U.S. government classifies as cultural assets (unlike, say, rum or cigars).

Now, collectors like Miami’s Howard Farber say they6 expect American art lovers to “stampede” to Cuba’s studios and galleries as soon as it becomes easier for them to travel and shop there. “I believe Cuban art has been a best-kept secret among a few collectors,” Mr. Farber said, “and now that Cuba is opening up to us I think more people will discover a genre that’s fresh and great.”

Prices for Cuban art began climbing during the recession, driven by collectors like Mr. Farber and Miami-based philanthropist Ella Cisneros as well as major museums like London’s Tate. Currently, prices for works by Cuba’s living art stars like Yoan Capote, Carlos Garaicoia and the conceptual art duo Los Carpinteros swing between $5,000 and $400,000 apiece.

Cuban art embodies a mix of Spanish, African, and Caribbean influences and motifs. Wifredo Lam, who died in 1982, is considered Cuba’s Picasso; Sotheby’s sold his 1944 work, “Ídolo (Oya/Divinité de l’air et de la mort),” for $4.6 million two years ago, a record price for the artist.

El sueño de la mujer del pescador. ( serie Sueños náufragos)Acrílico-lienzo. 100 x 73  cm. 2014

Cuban artists tend to favor found objects like weathered woods and scrap metals. Cuban art also has long addressed themes specific to the island, such as isolation and the sea: Rafts, towers and oars are frequent symbols. Political criticism tended to be depicted in coded imagery to sidestep censors; lately, more art has tried to address global concerns like immigration and the economy.

Miami collector Steven Eber said he plans to keep an eye on Cuban art to see if its artists experiment with different motifs should closer ties to the U.S. give them greater


access to the Internet and permission to travel more widely. “How many paintings of boats do we really need?” he said, half-joking.

Dealer George Adams said the art scene also will need to stand up on its own merits after its “forbidden fruit” allure falls away.

Right now, works by Cuban artists aren’t necessarily less expensive in Havana than in New York or London. But collectors who visit the island can meet and form relationships with artists there that may result in small discounts or first dibs on new pieces—before the artists’ works reach galleries in Europe or New York. This type of access is particularly valuable for Americans competing with European and Latin American collectors who have been traveling to Cuba for years. Cuban dealers say Americans currently make up more than a third of their buyers.

New York dealer Sean Kelly, who represents Los Carpinteros, said he expects American collectors to focus on finding and visiting younger, edgy artists in Cuba who might not yet have been widely shown abroad. He said collectors also likely will crowd the next star-making biennial in Havana in May.

“If you’re the 24-year-old Jean-Michel Basquiat of Cuba, nobody in the U.S. has been able to discover your work. Now, we will,” Mr. Kelly said.

Mr. Kelly also thinks it could become easier for artists in Cuba to get permission to travel to the U.S.—still a difficult task now—and sell their work to Americans wielding U.S.-based currency and credit cards.

Getting into Cuba to shop has long been a tricky proposition. For decades following Fidel Castro’s 1959 communist revolution, collectors wishing to travel to Cuba needed a travel license from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which doled out a handful of licenses a year to Americans seeking to scout Cuba for “informational materials” like art.

Other collectors took advantage of different legal loopholes to get into Cuba to shop for art. The Treasury Department, for instance, agreed to issue travel permits to Americans who pledged to do humanitarian, scholarly or religious work in Cuba.

A_8-lighter.jpgMr. Farber, who made his fortune as co-owner of the Video Shack chain, sees parallels between the rebellious art made in China following the Tiananmen Square protests and art made during pivotal periods in Cuba’s revolutionary history. To gain access to Cuba’s art studios, he had to set up a charitable foundation five years ago and create an award for Cuban artists. Now, he owns more than 200 works and plans to go again next month.

Mr. Kelly is leveraging his educational license to fly his immediate family to Havana next week to attend the Dec. 28 wedding of one of the members of Los Carpinteros, Dagoberto Rodriguez Sanchez. “For Cuba,this is equivalent to Berlin’s Wall coming down,” he said. “We’re all ready to party.”

Valuing Cuban Art

Originally published in the April 2015 issue of Trust and Estates Magazine

Valuing Cuban Art by Alex Rosenberg and Leslie Koot Art, Auctions & Antiques Report

While the quality and desirability of Cuban art has been apparent to sophisticated collectors for quite some time, recent developments in restoring diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba are spiking the interest in Cuban art among a whole new group of American art buyers

La vendedora  ambulante. 90 x 132 cm. Mixta sobre lienzo. 2013.

and sellers.


Howard Farber, Ella Cisneros and Rosa de la Cruz in Miami were early prominent collectors, while Shelley and Donald Rubin, founders of the Rubin Museum of Tibetan art in New York, have amassed a considerable collection of contemporary Cuban art in more recent years. With the upcoming Havana Biennial in May 2015 and the easing of travel restrictions, a new wave of American collectors is expected to travel to Cuba and acquire Cuban art.

Estate-planning professionals whose clients collect art will need to familiarize themselves with a unique set of opportunities, as well as possible pitfalls, when advising their clients on valuations of Cuban art. Both established and new collectors will haveto face decisions regarding passing on their collections to heirs and/or donating artworks to tax-free institutions, requiring collectors to determine the fair market value (FMV) of this art for Internal Revenue Service purposes.




A Brief (Legal) History

Rather than talking about the discovery of Cuban art, a more fitting term, perhaps, is “re-discovery.” Back in 1944, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York featured the groundbreaking exhibition Modern Cuban Painters, inspired by a visit to Cuba by its then- director, Alfred Barr Jr. Nearly all of Cuba’s avant-garde (Vanguardia) artists were represented in the show, including Amelia Peláez, Carlos Enriquez and Victor Manuel. It led to wide critical acclaim and purchases of artworks by important collectors, as well as MoMA for its permanent collection, most notably, “The Jungle (1943),” by Wifredo Lam.

With the exception of Lam, who already enjoyed an international reputation at the time of the breakout show and split his time between Havana, Paris and New York, the other Vanguardia painters, who were based in Cuba, quickly disappeared from collectors’ radars following Cu- ba’s

revolution in 1959. The United States broke off diplomatic relations soon after, and on Sept. 4, 1961, Congress enacted the Foreign Assistance Act, authorizing a total embargo on all trade between the two countries, including art, and imposing strict travel restrictions.

Art Exempt

It would take nearly 30 years for the free exchange of Cuban art to be restored. In 1989, a Florida–based Cuban art dealer successfully sued the federal government for the return of his Cuban art collection, previously confiscated from him, on the grounds that he had violated the Trading with the Enemy Act (TWEA) of 1917.1 The dealer cited the Berman Amendment, enacted in 1988, which clarified that the President’s powers under TWEA were subject to an exemption, excluding “informational materials” from trade sanctions. Although the language in the amendment included books as an example of informational materials, it failed to specifically mention works of art. The court, however, ruled that informational materials did include original paintings and that they were, therefore, exempt from the import prohibited under TWEA.


Angel de la Guarda.-2014-Acrilico sobre lienzo-90 x 110 cm

It would take another action, headed by the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee (NECLC) in 1990, to solidify U.S. citizens’ rights to legally obtain Cuban art. A lawsuit was filed against the George H.W. Bush Administration for banning the free exchange of art in violation of the 1988 Berman Amendment and the First Amendment, arguing that paintings were as much a part of the First Amendment as books. Prominent figures in the U.S. art world, including scholars, museum

directors, art dealers and major auction houses supplied their signatures in support of the suit.The court ruled that paintings and

drawings were indeed exempt from the embargo and that denying their free exchange was a violation of one of the most respected rights of U.S. citizens. Following the ruling, the Treasury Department agreed to issue new regulations exempting Cuban art from any general trade embargo. Art dealers and collectors who already had ties to Cuba started taking advantage of this newly sanctioned opportunity, but the trade in Cuban art remained a little-known exemp- tion among most mainstream collectors and, with significant travel and other restrictions still in place, a difficult undertaking, until the recent changes in government policy.

The Artists

In the meantime, while U.S. interest in the Cuban Vanguardia artists had largely faded and knowledge of contemporary artists was largely absent, a new generation of artists had emerged in Cuba, straddling the influences of their Vanguardia predecessors and contemporary issues. The first Havana Biennial was inaugurated by Cuba’s Ministry of Culture in 1984 and, with every subsequent event, provided an important platform for artists, such as Manuel Mendive, José Bedia and Tomás Sánchez, who through their veiled references and tongue-in-cheek texts, commented on the everyday realities of post-revolution society, not shying away from criticisms. As a result of this exposure, a number of artists were invited to exhibit internationally, although not in the United States.4 Both Bedia and Sánchez are now based outside of Cuba, selling successfully at auction and through art galleries.

During the late 1980s, the Soviet Union’s support of Cuba ceased, contributing to extreme economic hardship, a time Cubans refer to as the “special period.” Hunger and absence of basic goods and materials were part of daily life. From this environment of scarcity, some of the most evocative and soon to be best known contemporary Cuban artists emerged: Belkis Ayón, brothers Ivan and Yoan Capote, Roberto Fabelo, Carlos Garaicoa, Kcho, Sandra Ramos and a group called Los Carpinteros were incorporating found and recycled items in their work and managed with minimal materials and ingenuity to express themes of discontent, using coded imagery. Many of these artists now exhibit and sell internationally, at ever-increasing

prices, and a new generation is fresh on their heels, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to show their work to a larger group of U.S. collectors, as recent developments promise to provide.

Problems in Valuation

Authenticity. Because of the lack of communication between Cuba and the outside world, the trade in dubious Modern Cuban art is thriving. The Vanguardia artists are all deceased, and (museum) experts in Cuba are difficult to contact. Some fake works are painted in the style of Vanguardia painters. Others are flagrant copies of works by these and other artists that may be on view at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Havana, but unknown to most American collectors. Especially in the Florida area, a significant number of collectors are suspected of unwittingly holding inauthentic works in their collections, often accompanied by fancy but worthless certificates. Even in the New York area, a simple Internet search for “Cuban art authentications” yields a supply of firms that promise to provide so-called “Certificates of Authenticity.” Estates of art collectors could be potentially faced withpaying estate taxes on these works, requiring the help of an objective professional to determine authenticity. There are, in fact, excellent authenticity experts practicing in Cuba, although they’re few. But, unless an appraiser has established local relationships, these experts are difficult to locate

and contact.

Patrimony regulations. Although U.S. regulations allow importation of artwork into the United States, when purchasing art in Cuba for exportation, several procedures need to be followed. During the years the Soviets were involved in Cuba, it’s believed that many important works of art were sold to foreign buyers, at prices far below market value. Today, with the developing expertise of appraisers, this loss of patrimony is virtually impossible if legal channels are followed.5 A seller of art in Cuba needs to provide the buyer with the proper documentation that allows the art to be exported. This procedure is necessary to ensure that a valuable piece of Cuban

patrimony isn’t smuggled out of the country. If the seller can’t provide an export permit,

Cathedral No. III. 51.4 x 51.4 inches.jpg

proper documentation for the art needs to be obtained from the Registro Nacional de Bienes Culturales (National Registry of Cultural Goods) and Centro de Patrimonio Cultural (Center of Cultural Heritage) in Havana. If these institutions rule that the subject work of art is part of national patrimony, they won’t issue an export certificate, and the work may not leave Cuba. The value of Cuban art may be greatly compromised if it was exported illegally from Cuba. A certified and experienced appraiser won’t value an object unless certain questions regarding legal ownership, authenticity and provenance have been satisfactorily answered. When in doubt, the appraiser will contact the appropriate local experts and authorities to ensure that correct procedures were followed. This ethical requirement helps ensure that forged or illegally obtained art won’t be traded.

Lack of sales information. Only a handful of contemporary Cuban artists have international auction records, and often, prices achieved there aren’t representative. The primary work by these artists is mostly sold at the gallery level, leaving only their secondary work to be sold at auction. Valuing the art by emerging Cuban contemporary artists is even more complicated and requires consultation with experts who have close contacts with local Cuban galleries and auction venues to determine FMV.

Quality. With the new wave of U.S. collectors expected to crowd Cuba’s artist studios and galleries, eager to scoop up the latest contemporary star, issues of quality will, no doubt, emerge. Almost invariably, current successful Cuban artists graduated from Havana’s prestigious San Alejandro or Instituto Superior de Arte art schools, following rigorous training. A larger audience isn’t expected to seriously affect the quality or prices of their work in the short term, as they already mostly sell all the work they produce. However, me- diocre, lesser trained artists are expected to tailor their art to satisfy a much larger and less sophisticated audience to sig- nificantly boost their sales and prices. But, prices paid in Cuba can’t be automatically translated to FMVs in the United States, making the need for connoisseurship even more urgent.

A Promising Future

Cuban art promises to be the next point of focus of the international art market, offering exciting opportunities for both U.S. collectors and Cuban artists. It’s expected to take years, however, for a fully free flow of information and cooperation to be realized between the two nations and to establish essential reference systems, such as verified auction sales databases and catalogs of confirmed works of the Vanguardia and other major artists. Until that time, caution is warranted in valuing Cuban art, and the assistance of qualified, objective

experts indispensable.


1. Cernuda et al v. Heavey, et al., 720 F. Supp. 1544 (S.D. Fla. 1989).

2. Author Alex J. Rosenberg, then active as a private art dealer and member of the Executive Committee of the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee, solicited these signatures.

3. Dore Ashton v. Newcomb, et al., Case 90-03799-LLS (S.D.N.Y. 1991).

4. G. Gelburd, “Cuba and the Art of Trading with the Enemy,” Art Journal (Spring 2009), Vol. 68, No. 1, at pp. 26-31.

5. Alex J. Rosenberg, “The Role of the Appraiser in Preserving Patrimony,” An Approach to Advanced Problems in Appraising, with a Special Focus on Cuba, American Friends of the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba (New York 2011), at p. 205.

Artist Profile: Adislén Reyes Pino

A_9-lighter Adislén Reyes Pino was born in Havana in 1984. She graduated from the Higher Institute of Arts and the San Alejandro Academy of Fine Arts, where she is now working as a professor. Pino’s work has been exhibited in several solo exhibitions in Havana, Cuba. Her work has been featured in the Taipei Fine Art Museum in China, The Art Museum of the Americas in Washington, D.C. and the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design in Costa Rica.

Pino draws her inspiration from the personal narrative. Her creative process stems from the idea that the personal angst of the individual often reflects the trepidation of the public realm.

Adislén spoke with Assistant Director, Maria Guerrero (via email) about her work relating to the pieces currently on exhibition in the gallery. The interview has been translated from Spanish; the original is available for download here.


Hi Maria,

In the series Crisis, part of the personal crisis process can correspond with another crisis that occurred previously at a generational level, sparking all kinds of questions and placing ourselves in a state of vulnerability and expectation. 

The works convey a calm, associated to the moment before or after a crisis; they reflect the complexities that arise from the creative process and how they influence psychological, ethical and social factors.  It talks about the relationship between the artist and their work, and how the creation process can be made long and systematic, manifesting itself into a relationship that oscillates between dialogue and lack of communication; closeness and distance.


Can you explain in more detail what kind of crises you are referring to?

It all stems from a personal and existential crisis that I had which sparked my creative process.  At the same time, the result can be read like the crisis of an entire generation that may have many questions, anxieties, dissatisfactions and worries that are similar to mine. 


Can you explain the use of paper and graphic style?

I choose drawing on paper (card stock) as the primary exercise to capture ideas... it’s a systematic exercise each artist performs. In this series, I incorporate discarded materials in their own series to create new works. For example, drawings that came out wrong and were crumpled and tossed or the broken points from a pencil.  I recycle them, creating works that allude to these drawings that were never made. These points of a pencil that cannot draw anymore, but at the same time find a form of revenge inside each series trying to destroy the figure of the girl (me-the artist). The illustration and the graphic style bring a level of synthesis that I could not find in another visual style. 

Explain how the style of your drawings comments on the concept of "crisis"?

I am interested in reflecting on the crisis from a totally opposite visual from what we associate with a crisis. I want to steer away from chaos because I want to convey tranquility, so I think many times when we are in a crisis we try to behave and look like nothing happened. Therefore the drawing style is simple, clean, but the ideas of the precarious moments allude to the tension we feel in a crisis that cause us to go into an existential state of mind.


I want to know more about your process: how do you choose the paper and how do you choose the cartoons?

The girl, the main character,  I have been working since 2007.  Initially it had no age, no sex, no name and I used it to address the issue of gender and identity ambiguity from every point of view. With time it became more self-referential. In “Crisis”, the character is defined as a girl for the first time. In this series the character alludes to me, but at the same time to the figure of the artist. Meanwhile the dog (a character I use for the first time in this series) embodies the art itself.  The whole time the series chronicles the relationship between the artist (girl) and their work (dog), as a variable relationship, because sometimes it manifests itself as love and other times it manifests as hate, dependency, etc. I work on the paper or the compositions with my hands and it’s almost a therapeutic process. I rub the graphite with my fingertips or rip the paper by hand.

Any other information for the Crisis series?

Crisis series began in 2015 but I am currently still working on it. It functions as a kind of diary because it is an exercise for me. I showed it at the Havana Biennial in 2015, in a personal exhibition that just title: Crisis.



Straight from Cuba: A Woman's Perspective is currently on exhibition at the Lois Lambert Gallery through July 10th.