When the Kennedy Center Performing Arts of Washington D.C. opened its doors to the arts festival of Cuba on May 8, about 400 Cuban artists were in the US capital, including about 200 who live in Cuba. Of these, only three painters living on the island have the opportunity to exhibit at the prestigious cultural centre: Roberto Fabelo, Manuel Mendive and Roberto Diago. Diago spoke recently about the preparation for his show at the Kennedy Center from 9 to 20 May.
How did the Kennedy Center invite you?
The curators of the Kennedy Center already knew the work of some Cuban artists, and the curators Gilda and Ronildo were interested in my work because they went to an event with one of my works on show. I am making an installation called “Permanent History”. They gave me the measurements of the exhibition space; It is a large hall 15 x 8 meters. From there I started to build the piece that includes videos and sound. In my case I’m going with one piece because it’s so big.
Only three painters living in Cuba will show at this unprecedented festival for Cuban culture. What does this mean for your artistic career?
It is a historical festival for me, because of the specific relationship between the two countries at this time. The mere fact of having to go to Mexico to get an entry visa is sad, with that government having an embassy here in Havana. But well, we will be communicating because once again there is art extending a hand of peace.
What other projects are you working on?
I was in the exhibition ‘Zona Maco’ with the Collage Habana Gallery. Now I’m making work: my project is always to work, it’s what I do. I work, I work and then I show. I will also exhibit in Trinidad. I just returned from a personal show in Charleston, South Carolina. I have another exhibition in October at the Miami Museum and a big project I’m going to do with children, here at the La California site.
About Roberto Diago
Graduated in Painting at the San Alejandro Academy (1990), Juan Roberto Diago is also a sculptor and installation artist. He is a Consultant Professor at the University of the Arts. He has exhibited in France, Germany, Portugal and several Cuban cities. In 2017, he presented the solo exhibition ‘Diago: The past of this Afro-Cuban present’ in the grounds of Harvard University, becoming the first Cuban to exhibit at there.
Diago has been given several awards, including the Distinction for National Culture, awarded by the Ministry of Culture in Cuba (2002), the Prix Amédée Maratier (1999) Remis par Fondation Kikoïne sous l’ égide of the Fondation du Judaïsme Français, awarded for the first time to a Latin American artist and the Raúl Martínez Special Prize, also awarded for the first time by the Cuban arts organisation Hermanos Saíz Association to highlight the career of a visual artist under 35 years.