Jorge S. Helft

Biographical notes

My bottom-line opinion of the Havana Biennial is highly positive and in my opinion fully warrants the huge effort put forth by Llilian Llanes, Nelson Herrera Ysla and their team. Hopefully they will plan and start working on the Seventh Biennial.

What would I criticize? Within the totally positive general opinion above, I feel that Biennials (all of them) would gain a lot if they were very considerably smaller - say 60 to max. 80 artists. With 175 (Havana, last documenta) or a bit less (São Paulo) the viewer must accept that 80% will be bad and/or uninteresting. This fact dilutes the punch that some very good works can offer. I can understand the reasons that the organizers wish to organize very big monster shows in order to make more noise but as far as selecting and showing good works I will stand to my opinion. Personally I am also against giving the artists a theme or subject. Either they do not care and send what they want (in which case giving a subject is useless) or they abide to the rules and I feel that this is often a limiting factor. I would prefer the artist and the curator to work together and decide which work is the most significant and meaningful. Llilian's very clever and pertinent reply, that a theme allows for much additional debate not only among specialists but also for the less qualified public trying to see or understand why a work fits or does not fit with the given guidelines, does not convince me. I also felt that the spreading out of this Biennial to 19 different locations was damaging to its presentation. I know the huge problems the organizers had to face because of the Museum's closing so I cannot blame them but, if possible, I would prefer to avoid this in the future.

Looking at the catalogue I can remember 12 to 15 very interesting works which in my mind is a reasonably good score. I was not impressed by the Cuban art that I managed to see outside the Biennial.

Jorge S. Helft: Lives in Buenos Aires. Collector of modern and contemporary art. President of the San Telmo Foundation, has directed numerous cultural foundations. Organizes Argentinian art- and cultural exhibitions and events (music, literature, etc.) across the globe. Owns the world's largest collection of items about the life and work of Jorge Luis Borges, which he makes available for researchers and exhibitions (Centre Pompidou in 1992, among others).

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©  Text: Jorge S. Helft.  Website:
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