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Part of the
exhibition

Amsterdam, the Magic Center Art and counterculture 1967-1970

7 Jul 2018 until 6 Jan 2019

Mini story — 3 Jul 2018 — Suzanna Héman

Cuba is hot and happening in the 60s. Many artists and writers – including Dutch ones – express their solidarity with the Cuban revolution. Stedelijk conservator Ad Petersen travels to Cuba in 1970, following the example of director Edy de Wilde and artists including Ed van der Elsken, Corneille and Harry Mulisch. The conservator is impressed with the combative posters on the streets. With help from Cuban writer Edmundo Desnoes, Petersen manages to take about 250 Cuban posters with him to the Netherlands. These posters are still part of the Stedelijk Museum’s collection.

Rolando de Oraa Carratala, 26 de julio XV aniversario del asalto al Moncada (26th of July, XVth Anniversary of the Attack on Moncada), 1968. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
Rolando de Oraa Carratala, 26 de julio XV aniversario del asalto al Moncada (26th of July, XVth Anniversary of the Attack on Moncada), 1968. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
Elena Serrano, Dia del guerrillero heroic (Day of The Heroic Guerrilla), 1968. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
Elena Serrano, Dia del guerrillero heroic (Day of The Heroic Guerrilla), 1968. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
  • Alfredo Gonzales Rostgaard, untitled, 1969. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Alfredo Gonzales Rostgaard, untitled, 1969. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
  • Felix Beltran Concepcion, And we'll turn the setback into victory, 1970. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Felix Beltran Concepcion, And we'll turn the setback into victory, 1970. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
  • Felix Beltran Concepcion, And we'll turn the setback into victory, 1970. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Felix Beltran Concepcion, And we'll turn the setback into victory, 1970. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
  • Felix Beltran Concepcion, And we'll turn the setback into victory, 1970. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Felix Beltran Concepcion, And we'll turn the setback into victory, 1970. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
  • Felix Beltran Concepcion, And we'll turn the setback into victory, 1970. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Felix Beltran Concepcion, And we'll turn the setback into victory, 1970. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

“visitors to Cuba of the ilk of director De Wilde and alderman Lammers” are precisely those whom Castro considered “CIA agents and so-called lefties.” 

— From a pamphlet of the Bond voor Beeldende Kunstenaars, 1967

Museum director on Cuba

While researching for this exhibition, we discovered archive material showing that Stedelijk director Edy de Wilde had also visited Cuba back in 1967, where he had attended the unveiling of a painting of twelve by eight meters on the occasion of a conference of the Organization for Latin American Solidarity. In addition to De Wilde, a large number of European representatives from the art world were invited, including Ed van der Elsken, Corneille, and Harry Mulisch. 

De Wilde commented on the huge impression that Castro made, especially on young people. But when it came to art, he saw all kinds of American influences, such as pop art, hard-edge painting, and the like. According to a pamphlet published that year by the Bond voor Beeldende Kunstenaars, “visitors to Cuba of the ilk of director De Wilde and alderman Lammers” are precisely those whom Castro considered “CIA agents and so-called lefties,” and were thus far from welcome in Cuba. 

  • Jesús Forjans, Deben ser lanzadas al frente del trabajo todas las fuerzas del pais capaces de trabajar, 1970. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Jesús Forjans, Deben ser lanzadas al frente del trabajo todas las fuerzas del pais capaces de trabajar, 1970. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
  • Jesús Forjans, Hay que organizar el trabajo de un modo nuevo y crear nuevas formas de incorporacion al trabajo y al a disciplina, 1970. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Jesús Forjans, Hay que organizar el trabajo de un modo nuevo y crear nuevas formas de incorporacion al trabajo y al a disciplina, 1970. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
  • Jesús Forjans, Mas y mas nuevos trabajadores a las filas del partido, para participar en la edificacion de la nueva vida, 1970. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Jesús Forjans, Mas y mas nuevos trabajadores a las filas del partido, para participar en la edificacion de la nueva vida, 1970. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Street posters

In 1970 Stedelijk Museum curator Ad Petersen left for Cuba to attend a meeting of the state organization Consejo de Cultura, to celebrate the 26th of July, the day commemorating the revolutionary organization headed by Fidel Castro. Petersen’s attention was chiefly drawn to posters he saw in the streets. Among them were huge formats of roughly three by six meters. While there, Petersen also met the Cuban writer Edmundo Desnoes, who helped him to collect posters, thanks to which he returned to the Netherlands with hundreds of Cuban posters. There he also met the French cartoonist Georges Wolinski, who was eventually killed in 2015, in the attack on Charlie Hebdo.

Revolutionary messages

Within a year the revolutionary message from Cuba was on view at the Stedelijk Museum. The posters are colorful, vigorously eloquent political and social messages designed for kommunikasie (“communication”). Newspapers often printed a poster on the first or last page, so that people could put it on the wall. In this way a revolutionary form of visual art helped to raise social awareness. More traditional artforms, such as (wall) paintings, were too time-intensive and too tied to one place to make much of a contribution to the radical cause. Moreover, the posters spoke a language that everyone could understand, a language in which beauty and revolution were interwoven.

  • Ernesto Padrón Blanco, 1959 Liberacion, 1969. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Ernesto Padrón Blanco, 1959 Liberacion, 1969. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
  • Ernesto Padrón Blanco, 1960 Nacionlizacion, 1969. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Ernesto Padrón Blanco, 1960 Nacionlizacion, 1969. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
  • Ernesto Padrón Blanco, 1961 Victoria de giron, 1969. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Ernesto Padrón Blanco, 1961 Victoria de giron, 1969. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
  • Ernesto Padrón Blanco, 1962 Crisis de octubre, 1969. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Ernesto Padrón Blanco, 1962 Crisis de octubre, 1969. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
  • Ernesto Padrón Blanco, 1963 S.M.O., 1969. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Ernesto Padrón Blanco, 1963 S.M.O., 1969. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
  • Ernesto Padrón Blanco, 1964 Trabajo voluntario, 1969. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Ernesto Padrón Blanco, 1964 Trabajo voluntario, 1969. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
  • Ernesto Padrón Blanco, 1965 Comite central de PCC, 1969. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Ernesto Padrón Blanco, 1965 Comite central de PCC, 1969. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
  • Ernesto Padrón Blanco, 1966 Solidaridad, 1969. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Ernesto Padrón Blanco, 1966 Solidaridad, 1969. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
  • Ernesto Padrón Blanco, 1967 Guerrillero heroico ,1969. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Ernesto Padrón Blanco, 1967 Guerrillero heroico ,1969. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
  •  Ernesto Padrón Blanco, 1968 Offansiva: los 10 millones van, 1969. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Ernesto Padrón Blanco, 1968 Offansiva: los 10 millones van, 1969. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Heroes of the revolution

An example of this is the series of posters by Ernesto Padrón Blanco, José Papiol, and Faustino Pérez, which celebrates the tenth anniversary of the “triumph of the uprising.” Together the ten posters form the word “REVOLUCIÓN.” Each letter represents a year; for instance, the “E” represents the Cuban flag and the “V” represents victory during the Bay of Pigs Invasion. The photograph of Che Guevara on the poster for 1967 corresponds with the year of his death. The entire series therefore symbolizes a number of important milestones, and was also produced in billboard format.

The posters by Jesús Forjans, which use the likeness of Lenin in instances of Cuban radicalism, are remarkable as well. Of course there are also innumerable posters that depict the great leader, Fidel Castro. He resigned as president more than ten years ago, and was succeeded by his brother, Raúl Castro. Now, in 2018, the Castro dynasty has come to an end as Miguel Díaz-Canel takes the helm. Naturally, posters will be made to celebrate this occasion.

Suzanna Héman is assistant curator at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

  •  Raúl Martínez, Lenin, 1970. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Raúl Martínez, Lenin, 1970. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
  • René Mederos Pazos, FNL de Vietnam del sur 9 años de ejemplo y de victoria, 1969. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    René Mederos Pazos, FNL de Vietnam del sur 9 años de ejemplo y de victoria, 1969. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
  • Asela M. Perez, Jornada internacional de solidaridad con America Latina (International Day of Solidarity with Latin America), 1970. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Asela M. Perez, Jornada internacional de solidaridad con America Latina (International Day of Solidarity with Latin America), 1970. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam