HAVANA, June 26 (EFE) .- Raúl Postillo is 77 years old and left Cuba for the first time a month ago to participate in the prestigious Art Basel of Switzerland …
but not as an artist, but as an art: he was part of an installation that invited reflection on solitude, and his presence generated a certain controversy.
“Soledad ovoidal”, by the Kosovar artist Sislej Xhafa, reproduced on a large scale the corrugated aluminum façade after which Raúl distributed egg cartons in Old Havana, and did so with his protagonist included, as the Cuban spent a week sitting in the installation, “exposed” in Basel to the public’s gaze.
“They were very curious, but all the questions I answered, if I felt happy in Cuba, they asked me where I was from and we started to talk,” says Efe Raul, recently landed from Switzerland and back before the old blind and the original door that inspired the artist from Kosovo.
The Cuban elder became the sensation of the Basel, the main art fair in the world, and telling the press how happy he has become, he hopes to stop the criticism of a part of the public about his presence in the Xhafa facility, where he made Exactly the same thing he does every day in Havana.
Because the controversial “Soledad ovoidal”, one of the most shared works in the networks by the visitors of Art Basel 2019, some people thought it was a great reflection and an ode to visual memory, while others considered it a disrespectful idea that attentively against the dignity of man and dehumanize him by exposing him “like in a zoo”.
“Is art bigger than real life, the same as real life? Absolutely incomparable with real life?”, Thought an Instagram user, while another lamented that the Cuban was exhibited “as a circus attraction” and he wondered if the man was included in case the work was sold.
The installation -which was never for sale as it was explained to Efe Galleria Continua, which represents Xhafa- could be seen within the striking “Unlimited” section of Art Basel, dedicated to large-scale creations that do not fit into a traditional display.
How does a Cuban winemaker come to the mecca of contemporary art? Well apparently to be in the right place at the right time. Raúl was sitting in his door, as always, when Sislej Xhafa, who was exhibiting his works in Havana those days, went there in 2018 and took a photograph of him.
Some time later, a person in charge of the gallery with whom the artist works went to find the old man and conveyed the invitation to participate in the project, which he accepted immediately.
This work “was born out of the desire of the artist to move a man, who habitually during his work is used to interact with many people who walk by the front of the winery – not only with clients, but also with neighborhood acquaintances and tourists – from Cuba to Switzerland “, they explain to Efe from Galleria Continua.
“This idea of the movements of man for the planet, in the forms of conquest, colonization and tourism, is one of the most researched by the creator,” who tried “to reverse the flow, leading to one of the kermesse more luxurious of the first world an element that, without doubt, is out of place, and therefore causes a high sense of estrangement, “they add.
Today, oblivious to the commotion and just “a little tired of the plane”, Raul assures jovial that “he is satisfied” with the salary that he charged for his presence in the facility, that he would repeat the experience and that his days at the fair were “similar” to his life in Havana, sitting in front of a constant movement of passersby who greet him.
Of course, remember that in Switzerland was everywhere comfortably by car and dined in elegant restaurants, experiences that are not available to many Cubans in a country in which the average state salary barely reaches $ 30 per month.
Returning to the populous Teniente Rey street in Old Havana, the veteran bodeguero’s neighbors observe amused how their egg “dispatcher” has become a celebrity and answers questions dressed in an immaculate yellow guayabera of thread, the typical Caribbean shirt.
“At the opening of the fair, everyone was going up from me,” says this man from the province of Matanzas who fought at Playa Girón (the failed attempt to invade the Bay of Pigs in 1961) and earlier in the Sierra of the Escambray, when the revolutionaries of Fidel Castro faced the forces of Fulgencio Batista.