Carlos Garaicoa

Article Bio Works Merits Images
deconstruction, dictatorship, environment, modernity, politics, poverty, urbanity
Media Arts (video)
Visual Arts (installation art, photography)
America, South, Middle East, Europe, Southern, Europe, Western
Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Italy, England (UK), Monaco, Switzerland
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February 7, 2006
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Carlos Garaicoa


Carlos Garaicoa

Garaicoa works in installation, new media and photography. He uses architectural forms to illustrate the disintegration of political ideals both in a sociological sense and in it´s physical manifestation.
As a contemporary artist from Cuba, belonging to a generation that grew up under the regime of Fidel Castro, Garaicoa has developed a unique style defined by the irony in its ideas and the resourcefulness of its formal solutions. Unlike many of his contemporaries he does not live in exile. However he has had the opportunity to travel and develop work all over the world. This makes him one of the most well-known Cuban artists in the international sphere.

Born in Havana in 1967 Carlos Garaicoa´s work has been concerned with the archeology of the city. He understands architecture as one of the most influential disciplines on the development of society. He regards it as not only having a huge impact politically, ideologically and socially in the bigger scale, but also having a real impact in everyday life. His interests have always been close to architecture and public art, however his work is not monumental or grandiose; on the contrary his approach to the subject is through the subtle gesture. ´City viewed from the table of my house´ (1998) is one of such works concerned with the city from a poetical perspective, where Garaicoa tries to address the issue of the public versus the private, using glass objects placed on a table in such a way that they echo the view of the city outside.

Although his work is often viewed under the shadow of the word utopia, his approach is rather a comment on the realities and possibilities of the territory. It responded initially to the local situation in Cuba after the fall of communism in the Soviet Union, talking about the decadence of architecture that ultimately evidences the fall of an ideal, and the consequences of living on an island not only in geographical but also political terms. The contradictions within Cuba have been one of the points of departure for his projects especially since he declares to be working in the glocal sphere (global and local at the same time).

Garaicoa is interested in the encounter between cultures. This subject matter can be seen in works like ´Cualquier sitio es un buen sitio para vivir´, a series of photographs of devastated areas all over the world, trying to show how some conditions are present everywhere, not only in Havana. According to him urban architectural abandonment is one of the characteristics of modernity shared by developed and underdeveloped countries alike. Although his point of departure is Cuba, in this particular work he is actually making a comment on modernity being an incomplete project and the frustration this entails, that is to say the imminence of social dreams ruined by time.

Garaicoa finds himself thinking of urban organisation as an intrinsic condition of humanity, but also of the entropy of this condition as it materializes and destroys itself almost simultaneously seemingly without any interference from people or community. These contradictory impulses to create and to destroy are always present in his work. ´Ahora juguemos a desaparecer´ (2002), for instance, is a city built with wax that melts gradually as the heat takes over.

In ´Continuidad de una arquitectura ajena´, the work he presented at Documenta 11, Garaicoa attempted to make a reconstruction of places and landmarks, like the Twin Towers, by means of fiction; thus pointing out the possibility of challenging history and human nature through the imagination. It is a perfect example of how texts are very important in his pieces, in the titles or in the work itself. It is important for him to keep a certain degree of narrative, given the fact that there is always a story linked to his works. Thus, the media can change from drawing, to video, to sculpture and installation but the story is always present.

Always looking from the architectural point of view, another of Garaicoa´s concerns is to challenge the way Cuba is seen from the outside and how to project another image. In his work he plays with the contrast between the classic romantic image of Havana´s ruins and the plans and models for the city of the future. Although his work seems at times dramatically romantic, the images he uses of architecture in ruins are contrasted by his projects of new architecture that seem to be a proposal to see buildings as relational objects. Thus nostalgia and endeavour mix in his work. He makes a proposal for a city of the future as he looks at the ruins of the past.

Giving importance to the ruin as a monument of times past and the promise of times to come, Garaicoa reaches for a sort of identification with the territory, a search for another way to address identity outside the stereotypical Cuban cars, buildings, poverty etc. For the past few years Garaicoa has focused on the Cuban context, his aim with this is to make it known globally as it is and not as an exotic construction. The artist highlights how the utopia of the modern city conceived in Europe has come to Latin America and disappeared under the decay that bad administration and lack of understanding brought. As he says “we face a never consummated architecture … proclaimed ruin before it ever existed”. He calls them ruins of the future, a future that never came.
Author: Maria Clara Bernal Bermudez


Carlos Garaicoa (b. 1967) is an installation artist and photographer who began his career in the 1990s. Best known for his use of images making references to architecture, real and imaginary, his work often alludes to re-inventions of cities in various states of decay. For Garaicoa, the architecture of Havana became symbolic of the tenuous state of his homeland where many buildings are falling apart. The crumbling of buildings in the city unleashed his desire for utopian projects with architectural solutions. “The conception of history as a fictitious element and its reconstruction, taking into account its implications in relation to the urban space, is the basis for most of my work”.

His work has been exhibited at numerous venues and in many different contexts worldwide. Among them Documenta XI, the Havana Biennial (V,VI,VII), 97 Kwangjú Biennale (Space/Fire), Sao Paolo Biennial (XXI, XXVI), 7th Sharjah International Biennial, 51st Venice, III Tirana Biennale and 1st Moscow Biennial, at the Aspen Art Museum Colorado, MOCA Los Angeles and at The Museum of Modern Art New York. He is represented by galleries in Europe: Continua Gallery (Italy), Galería Elba Benítez (Spain); US: Lombard-Freid Projects and Brasil: Luisa Strina Gallery, Sao Paulo. His work is included in several museum collections such as National Museum of Fine Arts, Havana; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; Southeast Museum of Photography, Daytona Beach, Florida; Los Angeles County Museum (LACMA), and Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles, California; The Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York; Maison Européene de la Photographie, Paris; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Tate Modern, London; The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), New York; Guggenheim Museum, New York, and private collections worldwide.



2006 Echigo-Tsumari Triennale, Nigata, Japan Metropolitanscapes, Palazzo Cavour, Turino, Italy Less. Strategie alternative dell’abitare, PAC, Milano, Italy Other than Art, G Fine Art, Washington D.C., USA Liverpool Biennale, Liverpool, UK Nuit Blanche, Paris, France Ideal City-Invincible Cities, Zamonsc, Polonia 2005 New Photography ’05, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA M City, Kunsthaus Fraz, Vienna, Austria III Tirana Bienale, Albania Farsite, Insite Tijuana, Tijuana-San Diego, Mexico-USA Inverting the Map: Latin American Art from the Tate Colletion, Tate Liverpool, Liverpool, UK Sempre un po’ più lontano, 51st Biennale di Venezia, Arsenale, Venice, Italy Art Unlimited, Art 36 Basel, Basel, Switzerland Fantasmapolis, Université Rennes 2 and Galerie Art & Essai, Rennes, France Manmano, Galleria Continua, Beijing, China Dialectics of Hope, 1st Moscow Biennale, Moscow, Russia 7th Sharjah International Biennial, United Arab Emirates 2004 Transmigraciones, Trienal/Poli/Gráfica de San Juan, Puerto Rico We Come in Peace... Histories of the Americas, Musée d’Art Conemporain de Montréal, France Artitecture, Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, California, USA Images Smugglers, XXVI Sao Paola Biennale, San Paolo, Brazil Future Cities, progetto esterno della Art Gallery di Hamilton, Hamilton, Canada A taste of Pain of Others. Contemporary video works from Latin America, L.A. Freewaves, California,USA 2003 Catastrofi Minime, MAN, Nuoro ILIII Premio Suzzara “Anima e corpo. Tra tradizione e cibernetica”, Galleria Civica d’Arte contemporanea, Suzzurra (MN) La RiproRoduzione dell’Arte, National Institute of Graphic, Rome, Italy La Ciudad Radiante, Bank Foundation, Bienal de Valentia, Spain Time capsule, Art in General, New York, USA Dream Spaces/ Entre Sueños, Deutsche Bank Lobby Gallery, New York, USA Salon des Refuses, Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa, Venice, Italy Modern Islands, Public Project, Dresden, Germany 2002 Copyright, Centro Cultural de España, Havana, Cuba Continuidad de una arquitectura ajena, DOCUMENTA 11, Kassel, Germany De ponta cabeça, Primera bienal de Fortaleza, Brazil La Ripro-Riduzione, Museo della Calcografia Nazionale, Italy On/Off, Vista Mare, Pescara Archivio Attivo, Centro per l’Arte Contemporanea, Carbognano, Italy Reality’s Desire, Generazione dell’immagine 8, Milan, Italy Artists Imagine Architecture, I. C. A., Boston, USA 2001 Demostration Room (casa ideal), Museo Alejandro Otero, Caracas,Venezuela ; Apex Gallery, New York, USA; NICC, Antwerp, Belgium Some Islands Exhibition, Project Room, Ianidett Cadot Gallery, Arco 2001 Mirror’s Edge traveling exhibition – Tramway, Glasgow, Scotland ; Charlottenbourg; Copenhagen, Denmark Sincretisimi, Fondazione Adriano Olivetti, Rome, Italy Shifting Tides-Cuban PhotographyAfter The Revolution, LACMA, Los Angeles; Grey Art Gallery, New York USA; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago,USA 1st Yokohama Triennale, Yokohama, Japan Mas alla del documento, Telefonica Foundation, Madrid, Granada, Badejez, Spain. VII Bienal de La habana, Centro Wifredo, Lam, Havana, Cuba Mega Wave, First Yokohama Trienale, Yokohama, Japan 2000 Memorias Intimas, Marcas, MUHKA, Antwerp, Belgium Mirror´s Edge, Vancouver Art Gallery, Castello Di Rivoli, Torino From the negative: conceptual photography from Cuba, Parts Gallery, Minneapolis, North Dakota Museum, USA Beyond the Document, Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain Waterfront project, Malmo, Sweden Fotolatina, Contemporary Art Museum of Guadalajara, Mexico Project: Window onto Venus, VII Biennale di A, Avana, Cuba Cream 2, 10 curators, 100 artists. Exhibition Catalog, Phaidon Press, London, UK 1999 Los mapas del deseo, Kunsthalle, Vienna, Austria, Nikolaj Comtemporary Art Center, Copenhagen, Denmark Four Cuban artists, Geunkens and De Vill Gallery, Knokke, Belgium Mirror’s Edge, Bild-Museet, Umea, Switzerland 1998 The Sight and the Labyrinth, Cosello da Cultura Gallega, Spain Isla Oscura: New Photography from Cuba, Southeast Museum of Photography, Daytona Beach USA Comme peut on être cubain?, Maison de L´Amerique, Paris, France Fragments a su imán, Casa de las Américas, Havana, Cuba Memorias Intimas, Marcas, Electricworkshop, Johannesburg; Window-Museum, South Africa XXIV Biennale of Sao Paulo, Parque Ibirapuera, Sao Paulo, Brazil Memorias Intimas, Marcas, White Pavilion, Institute for Contemporary Art, Lisbon, Portugal 2nd Salón de Arte Contemporáneo, Center for Development of the Visual Arts, Avana, Cuba 1997 Utopian territories: New Cuban Art, Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada Memorias Intimas, Marcas, Cuito Cuanavale, Portuguese Cultural Center, Angola; The Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town, South Africa Individual and his memory, VI Biennale di Avana, Wifredo Lam Centre, Avana, Cuba 1997 Kwangju Biennale ( Space/Fire ), Kwangju (Sud Corea) El individo y su memoria, VI Bieanal de La Habana, Havana, Cuba 1996 Las otras escri(p)turas, Visual Arts and Design Center, Avana, Cuba 1995 Africus ‘95, I Biennale di Johannesburg, South Africa Una de cada clase, Centro nacional de Conservación, REstauración y Museología, Fundación Ludwig de Cuba, Havana, Cuba Trans ( Intro ) Post- Diary, La Fundición Gallery, Spain Cuba: la isla posible, Centro Cultura Contemporánea, Barcelona, Spain 1994 Environment and Circumstances, V Biennale di Avana, National Museum of Fine Arts, Avana Cuba The New Generation: Contemporary Photography from Cuba, Fototeca de Cuba, V Biennale of Avana, Avana, Cuba V Biennale of Havana, Ludwig Forum fur Internationale Kunst, Germany 1993 The Metaphors of the temple, Gallery Center for Development of the Visual Arts, Avana , Cuba 1991 Si Tim tiene, Tim vale IV Biennale di Avana, Gallery ISA, Avana, Cuba Flesh Space Aglutinador of Arte, Avana , Cuba


2006 Capablanca’s real passion, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto Das Gast (retrospectiva de videos 1996-2006), Kuntshalle de Fribourg Overlapping, Liverpool Biennale, Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool Writings, (with Ezequiel Suárez), Lombard-Freid Projects, New York Postcapital, Palau de la Virreina, Barcelona 2005 Things that happen when life goes very wrong. Continua Gallery. San Gimignano Because every city has the right to be called Utopia. Oriel Mostyn Gallery, Walles Carlos Garaicoa. Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Yorkshire Carta a los censores. XXXIX International Contemporary Art Prize, Monaco Vamos fazer barullo agora, porra! (with Ezequiel Suárez), Galería Habana, La Habana El mapa del viajero. Luisa Strina Gallery, Sao Paulo Capablanca’s real passion, M.O.C.A (Pacific Design Center) Los Angeles Self-flagellation, survival, insubordination, Aspen Art Museum, Colorado 2004 La misura di quasi tutte le cose, Palazzo delle Papesse, Siena, Italy 2003 Carlos Garaicoa, Elba Benìtez Gallery, Madrid, Spain Carta a los censores (piccolo teatro dell’anarchia), Volume!, Italy De la serie Nuevas Arquitecturas, Centro Wifredo Lam, Havana, Cuba Lecciones de Historia, Casa de América, Madrid, Spain Autoflagelaciòn, Supervivencia, Insubordinaciòn, Sala Montcada, Fundació La Caixa, Barcelona Spain Cuba on the Verge, International Centre of Photography, UK Espacio C, Camargo, Spain La habitación de mi negatividad, Galería La Casona, VII Bienal de La Habana, Havana, Cuba 2002 Now Let’s Play to Disappear, Galleria Continua, San Gimignano, Italy Ni Christ, ni Marx, ni Bakouine, Maison Européenne de la Photographie (M.E.P.), Paris, France 2001 Because Every City Has the Right To Be Called Utopia, Lombard-Freid Fine Arts, New York USA Galerie Art & Public, Geneva, Switzerland Carlos Garaicoa- The Ruin; The Utopia ,(works 1990-2000) Museo Alejandro Otero, Caracas, Venezuela The last 10 days of the market, Aarhus Photography Festival, Image Gallery, Denmark 2000 Carlos Garaicoa: La ruina; La Utopía (obras1990-2000), Biblioteca Luis Angel Arango, Banco de La República, Bogota, Colombia; Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York, USA; Museo Alejandro Otero, Caracas, Venezuela Recuadros (con Federica Herrero), Jacobo Karpio Gallery, San Jose, Costa Rica 1999 Mi primer y último homenaje a la arquitectura (y al Marqués de sade), Galería La Habana (Cuba) Paisaje, Ars TeoréTICA, San Jose, Costa Rica Survia, Centro de Desarrollo de las Artes Visuales, Primier Saló de Fotografia, Havana, Cuba 1998 Principio y fin de la fascinación, Centro Wifredo Lam, Havana, Cuba 1996 El voluble rostro de la realidad, Fundación Ludwig de Cuba, Centro de Desarrollo de las Artes Visuales, Havana, Cuba Cuando el deseo se parece a nada, Art in General, New York, USA Havana: un estudio, Carla Stellweg Gallery, New York, USA The Landscape; The Limits, Fototeca de Cuba, Havana, Cuba 1995 Inside Havana, Space Aglutinador of Art, Havana, Cuba The Beheading Space, Centre


XXXIX Prix International d’Art Contemporain, Montecarlo, Monaco
Katherine S. Marmor Award 2005, Aspen
1999 Artist in residence, Parts Gallery. Minneapolis
1998 Artist in residence, Mario Abreu Museum, Maracay,Venezuela
Artist in residence, Yaddo Corporation, New York, USA
1997 Artist in residence, Centro Ranieri Civitella, Umbertide
1996 Artist in residence, Art in General, New York, USA
1995 Artist in residence, City of Biel-Bienne, Pro Helvetia and the Canton of Berne Switzerland
1993 Artist in residence, Città di Düsseldorf e Museo Paul Pozzoza, Germany
“El Mapa del Viajero” 1996
“El cazador/ The hunter”, 2004