Roberto Costantino
Guy Debord
Olu Oguibe
Cecilia Chilosi
Lauri Firstenberg
Lucio Fontana
Hou Hanru
Luca Beatrice
Eva Grinstein
Marco Senaldi
Lou-Laurin Lam
Massimo Trogu
Hans-Ulrich Obrist
Nelson Herrera Ysla
Tiziana Casapietra

Today, the term multiculturalism is widely used when a variety of different artistic and literary expressions converge on a given territory and find acceptance within that same territory even when mutual integration or interaction is not necessarily part of the bargain. However, what the term actually refers to is a sort of tolerance which allows for the non-traumatic coexistence of cultures in a given nation, pointing towards fresh understanding and insight.

The work of Wifredo Lam is multicultural in the fullest, deepest sense of the word, yet during the 1940s and 50s (of transcendental importance to his oeuvre), never was it the object of so much academic debate and study as it is today. Lam's own multicultural background (Chinese father, black mother) afforded him the deep insight into Asiatic and African cultures that constitutes the very essence of his paintings, drawings, engravings and ceramics. This he would express through the contemporary codes and languages of European art, chiefly as a result of his academic training in Spain, and later his prolonged exposure to the artistic avantgardes of late 1930s Paris.

Lam would have no difficulty in whatever new context he found himself, thanks to the context of Cuban life in which he was born and grew up -multicultural, hybrid, open, all-embracing, ready for dialogue with all comers, whatever the degree of complexity. The ethno-cultural context in which Lam was brought up, as a man and an artist, is of key importance in understanding the changes undergone politically, socially and economically by the modern world since the late 20th century. As far as economics are concerned, however, the term globalization is applied almost exclusively in reference to the most powerful nations, with scant regard for the particular, logical differences in circumstance of the majority of the human race.

Today, equally interesting processes are underway, a result of the physical and mental migration of millions of people who are reshaping the cultural maps in the process. There is already a new cartography of culture, far removed from that of some years ago, especially as far as the visual arts are concerned. It is not that the world has contracted, nor that we are inhabiting some sort of "global village", but that the world is now different. And it is to this other world that Wifredo Lam belonged, just as other artists, writers and intellectuals ahead of their time had lived.

It is not difficult to define the influence that Wifredo Lam has exerted in formal terms; however, the most attractive aspect of Lam's legacy to the History of Art is that sense of appropriation of and interaction with different cultures, the formal results of which are potent and energetic. In his work we can sense all the imagination and knowledge of his ancestral cultures coupled with the grammar and the architecture of the modern West. It is the sensibility of a man who emigrated and lived as a citizen of the world. Lam's best-known pieces are from his painted output, yet he also produced outstanding works in the form of drawings and etchings. He was particularly excited by bronze and ceramics which he considered the ideal materials to translate his own unique, personal language. Like other artists (Picasso, Marinetti, Miro, Matta, Fontana, Moore, Jorn, Appel, Baselitz, Botero), Lam felt the need to extend his creativity to different fields, and in each case he would leave his own unmistakable mark. We can recognize his work in whatever field, thanks to its validity and contemporary clout which, while not quite the same thing, are equal.

Wifredo Lam's attitude towards creativity is, essentially, paradigmatic in the sense that it plots out a route of investigation and respect towards tradition and roots which are alive and active within a given context. Lam managed an extraordinary balancing act between continuity and rupture, which only the greatest artists achieve as the result of a long process of emotional and intellectual maturity. Part of this process was the artist's ongoing contact with great anthropologists and people of modest economic circumstance, as well as his experiences in cities such as Havana, Madrid, New York, Paris, Marseilles, Puerto Principe, Fort-de-France and Albisola in Italy.

Nelson Herrera Ysla

Nelson Herrera Ysla is a curator, art critic, architect, poet.
Director of the Wifredo Lam Contemporary Art Center and Havana Biennial, Cuba. Professor and Researcher of Communication in the School of Industrial and Graphic Design and in the Cuban Institute of Internal Marketing, 1971-1980. Head of the Exhibitions of Department at the Visual Arts Council in the Ministry of Culture, 1980-1984. Co-founder of the Wifredo Lam Contemporary Art Center and Havana Biennial, 1984. He publishes writings on art and architecture in several magazines, including Casa de las Américas, La Gaceta de Cuba, Arte Cubano, Art Nexus, Atlantica, among others. He has lectured about Latinamerican Art, Cuban Architecture and Cuban Art in the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Valencia, Spain (1995, 1996), and some Universities of Guatemala, Colombia. He has participated in several International Encounters of Curators and Criticism in U.S.A., Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Holland, Germany, Spain. Jury of Graphic Design Awards and Theory and Criticism Prizes in Cuba. Member of the Advisor Committee of the Letras Cubanas Publishing House. In 1999 he was honored with the Medal of National Culture, Ministry of Culture, Republic of Cuba. He has published books on poetry, essays and criticism.