"The biennial, which opened on Friday, runs until April 30 and has attracted works from more than 300 artists and 54 countries."
With funds from the Fundación Amistad, a nonprofit organization based in the United States that promotes exchanges and understanding between Americans and Cubans, the Chelsea exhibition includes works by 30 artists from more than two dozen galleries, including Jack Shainman, Loretta Lux, Charles Cowles and Lehmann Maupin.
Among the pieces on exhibit is Doug Young’s “Nuclear Launch Center,” a pea-soup green desk that looks like one from the Arizona nuclear silo. Next to it stands “New Mount Rushmore,” by Long-Bin Chen, made out of New York telephone directories, which adds President Obama to the usual quartet of presidents.
The artist Duke Riley, who arrived in Havana at the beginning of March to organize a St. Patrick’s Day parade, takes a different course. “I like making friends,” he said, “but I also like messing with folks.” An eccentric bon vivant, Mr. Riley is best known
for his commentary on homeland security. (He built a model of a Colonial-era boat said to be the first submarine and was arrested as he floated up to the Queen Mary 2 when it visited New York Harbor.) Here, he organized the parade down O’Reilly Street in Old Havana partly to highlight the role the Irish had in Cuban history, he said, but also to see if it was any more difficult to get permission to march here than in the United States. “Imagine if a North Korean citizen showed up in Washington and suddenly said he wanted to organize a parade to commemorate some random holiday of his choosing,” Mr. Riley said. “How long do you think it would take to get permission?”
It took him a week to persuade Cuban officials to let him have the event. On the day of the parade he put the island’s most famous transvestite, Farah, at the head of the march to see if officials would stop it. They did not, and some of the security guards
assigned to the event actually joined in the dancing when the bagpipes were played.
“It just goes to show that you can have a little fun while you’re trying to push the envelope,” Mr. Riley said.