National Museum of Fine Arts: splendid collections

The National Museum of Fine Arts holds a rich collection reaching over 47,000 Cuban and universal pieces.

It's rebirth took place in July 2001 in three magnificent buildings, the original building, the colonial Barracks of Calvalry and the Asturian Center.

The history of this museum has been eventful since its first and precarious building in 1913, located on Lucena Street until it was moved to the building finished in 1955 that hosts this institution since then.

Its traditional building, inaugurated in 1955, which occupies the block on the streets of Trocadero, Zulueta, Monserrate and Animas, in the Historic Center of Havana, shows the richness of Cuban plastic arts in all its splendor, its schools, codes and languages.

The tour should start on the third floor which displays Colonial Art, from the 16th to the 19th centuries, with sacred art, portraitists and landscape painters in four large general rooms and individual spaces to highlight outstanding personalities.

Then the visitor finds the so-called Turn of the Century, which includes pieces of 1894 to 1927; the Academy art; the Emergence of Modern Art with pieces of 1927 to 1938; and its Consolidation between 1938 and 1951. In summary, vanguard and abstraction.

Here are the works by Nicolás de la Escalera, Menocal, Félix Cabarrocas, Víctor Manuel, Carreno, Pogolotti, Fidelio Ponce, Carlos Enríquez, Amelia Peláez, Portocarrero, Wilfredo Lam, etc.

The second floor also holds four great groups, the Other Perspective of Modern Art, from 1961 to 1963; and Contemporary Art, which curators have divided in the periods of 1960-1970, 1967-1981, and from 1979 on.

In the second building (on the corner of Empedrado and Monserrate), the former Barracks of Cavalry, from 1764, is where the administrative offices and the preservation and restoration workshops as well as the warehouses are located.

The building that was the seat of the Asturian Center, across the Central Park, built in 1927, holds the valuable collections of universal art. This building with an eclectic style and a majestic doorway that leads to the great stairs covered with an impressive mural was meticulously restored to accomplish five levels of exhibition with a great visualization in its rooms.

The famous Count of Lagunillas Collection and the rooms of Ancient Art are the highlight here, where people can see over 500 pieces of Mesopotamian Art; Egyptian Art (mats, alabaster glasses, a sarcophagus of polychromatic wood; a fragment of papyrus of one of the Books of the Dead); Greek Art (the core of it is 135 ceramic glasses, among them an impressive panathenaic amphora); and Roman Art (in a wide sense, as it includes four ceramic glasses and two Etruscan mirrors).

There is also a rich European collection. The Dutch room, with paintings from the 17th to the 19th centuries, is one of the most important collections in the Museum; the German collection, from the 18th to the 19th century displayed for the first time, where a series of murals from the late 15th century is considered attractive; the Italian room with pieces of the 16th to the 19th centuries; the English one, from the 17th to the 19th, with the portraitists of the 18th century being regarded as the most valuable of the collection; and the French one, with over 330 paintings and 500 drawings from the 17th to the 19th centuries.

The holdings of the Spanish collection include more than 600 pieces of which 150 are displayed, and it is considered one of the richest outside of the Peninsula. Something new that is offered at the Fine Arts Museum is the exhibition, on the first floor, of its collections of art from Latin America and the United States.

Open: Monday through Saturday, 10:00 to 18:00; Sunday, 10:00 to 14:00.
Entrance fee: 5.00 CUC