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The Collection / About

The von Christierson Collection


We have given a double title to this collection: a metaphoric one (Without Masks) and a more descriptive one (Contemporary Afro-Cuban Art). Both titles express the thematic content of our project and the purpose we pursue. We wish to show on the one hand, new and original representations and appropriations that recent Cuban art has made based on our African heritage (preserved and developed by the religious communities known as Regla de Ocha or Santería, Ifá, Palo Monte and the Abakuá Secret Society), and on the other hand, to identify and include creations that reflect conflicting polemic areas of our national reality that have remained silenced for so long, and are little known outside of Cuba. We refer to the existence of racial prejudice, stereotypes and discrimination which continue to injure the black and mulatto population of Cuba directly and our entire society and culture indirectly, in spite of the hypothetically non-aggressive and non-extreme nature of its manifestations, and the advances made in social equality since the Cuban Revolution of 1959.


In addition to offering an opportunity to verify the continuous presence and vitality of those ancient cultural and religious traditions of African origin in contemporary Cuban art, this collection seeks to fulfil the intellectual, moral and political obligation to provoke reflection on the racial problems in Cuba, with the intention of contributing to its understanding and future resolution. Beyond the purpose of “unmasking” the local manifestation of these problems, these artworks and texts should be perceived as part of a wider exercise of enquiry that, although based on Cuban reality and art, attempts to generate comparisons with racial relations in other national contexts and the presence or absence of artistic representations.

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There are few, if any, countries on earth like Cuba. Against all odds, it has survived its post-war history with its independence int act after episodes of misrule, rebellion, onslaught, isolation and hardship. More remarkably, notwithstanding all that its people have endured, it hosts a unique and vibrant culture, deeply rooted in its origins and modem history, which is strongly manifested in its art and music. lt is these special circumstances that make Cuban art so expressive and evocative.

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Without Masks: Contemporary Afro-Cuban Art was initiated in November 2007 with the full backing and financial support of South African collector Chris von Christierson and his family. Since its inception, they have enthusiastically embraced the idea of a collection of Cuban art that would show the multiple imprints of Africa in Cuba’s artistic culture; a collection dedicated to fostering greater knowledge through a series of public exhibitions and publications.

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Chris and Marina von Christierson, and family

Orlando Hernández

Bárbaro Martínez-Ruiz

Nick von Christierson

Assistant Curator
Lucha María Pérez Palacio

Fiona Doyle

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