Artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara was detained by the Cuban authorities on Monday, November 6, and is currently being held at the police station located at Cuba and Chaćon Streets in Old Havana. According to Cubanet, Alcántara was arrested just hours prior to a press conference he planned to hold on the alternative Havana biennial, slated to open in May 2018. He began organizing the exhibition after the Thirteenth Bienal de la Habana was postponed due to budgetary concerns following the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma.
Otero’s partner, the curator Yanelys Nuñez Leyva, was also taken into custody but was released after questioning. According to Leyva, the investigation is tied to their involvement with the biennial, and Alcántara’s arrest is an attempt to undermine the event. Alcántara was allegedly suspected of being in possession of illegally acquired materials. Witnesses confirmed that members of the State Security police force were seen searching the artist’s studio. According to Diario de Cuba, Alcántara was transferred to the Vivac detention center on Tuesday, and on Friday, November 10, he is scheduled to appear in the Municipal Court of Old Havana.
In an article published in the Havana Times, Leyva wrote: “The suspension of the Biennial that was planned to take place from October 5 until November 5, 2018, has alarmed many artists, both in and outside of Cuba . . . Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, bewildered like many of us with this situation, has already launched an appeal on Facebook, the social network, to demand that this Biennial take place, with the participation and collaboration of every artist who has expressed interest.”