Cernuda Salon – A Civilized Touch

Cernuda Arte Elevates Gables Culture With a Quarterly Salon

The Paris Art Salon – or simply The Salon – was one of the most important art events of France in the 1800s, arguably the greatest annual event in the world of Western art at the time. Held at various places, including the Louvre Palace and the Tuileries, paintings were exhibited floor-to-ceiling on every square inch of wall space. If you wanted to make your mark as an artist, you had to be exhibited at The Salon.

Emulating at least the flavor of that special gathering, Cernuda Arte held its first Salon last month at its two galleries on Ponce de Leon Boulevard just south of Ponce Circle. Dozens of paintings crowded the walls as some 220 people attended the event, listening to the Cuban and Latin American piano music of José Luis Ruiz Elcoro, a professor of music history who brought back forgotten songs from the early 20th century. Wine glasses clinked, and conversation filled the rooms.

The star of the show was painter Amelia Peláez del Casal (1896-1968), the most famous female Cuban artist of the early 20th century. She had been the first woman to attend the San Alejandro National Academy of Fine Arts in Havana, and later the only female artist to be displayed at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in its seminal 1943 exhibit of Cuban art.

Cernuda Salon
Ramón Cernuda Presents the Gables Version of ‘the Salon,’ the 19th Century French Art Exhibition.
A Lithograph of the Salon Des Tuileries in 1849
A Lithograph of the Salon Des Tuileries in 1849

Taking a page from the French Salon (one of the first places that allowed men and women to gather as intellectual equals), Ramón Cernuda dedicated his salon to 20 female Cuban artists. They included Peláez, along with two other historically significant Cuban women painters who were contemporaries: Elvira Martínez and Uver Solís. In all, Cernuda displayed 12 paintings and eight ceramics by Peláez, eight paintings by Solís, and one rare work by Martínez.

“We decided to dedicate an exhibition to women artists, 20 in total, starting with the first woman to attend the art institute of Cuba,” says Cernuda. “It was also a European-style salon about the 14 male artists who, in the 1930s and 1940s, exhibited with Peláez.”

At that time in Cuba, “men hesitated to exhibit in group shows that included women,” says Cernuda. “We wanted to extend recognition to these 14.” Among them are names familiar to collectors of Cuban art, including Víctor Manuel, René Portocarrero, Wifredo Lam, Carlos Enriquez Gómez, and Cundo Bermúdez.

Part of the evening’s fun was circulating between the two Cernuda Arte galleries, both two-story buildings, one filled with the art of the 20 female painters, the other an homage to the 14 men who supported them. Another part of the fun came from several women who burst out with classic ballads to accompany the piano-playing professor.

The next Salon is scheduled for the first Friday in January. In the meantime, the paintings will remain on display at the twin gallery buildings (3143 and 3155 S. Ponce de Leon Boulevard) from 10:30 am to 6:30 pm weekdays, and from noon to 6:30 pm on Saturdays.

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