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Nkame. A retrospective of Cuban Printmaker Belkis Ayón

Nkame. A retrospective of Cuban Printmaker Belkis Ayón

This retrospective exhibition of Belkis Ayón (Havana, 1967-1999) was conceived in its first version in Havana in 2009 to commemorate ten years of her decease, and covered the creative career of the artist as of 1984, when she was studying in the San Alejandro Academy in Havana, to her last series Desasosiego (Restlessness), made between 1998 and 1999, year in which she took her own life. It was the first time that such a far-reaching exhibition on the artist was conceived, not only because of the quality and quantity of the works – all of them exceptional examples of her technical mastery in collography-; but because it avoided commonplaces when analyzing her work (those regarding the ethnical and religious origin of the Abakuá Secret Society on which the artist based her work) instead emphasizing the universal value of her creations. Likewise, it took a contemporary vision of her work which transcended local references and became inscribed within the best of the international post- modern art.

The show included representative examples from her learning years, as well as all the works of installations carried out by the artist as of 1991, made in multiple sections. It includes some of the matrixes and also videos with interviews and documents about her creative process. Belkis Ayón fused elements of the Abakuá Secret Society in Cuba with other from primitive Christianity and other multiple references to religions, historic periods and cultures. She used all the above to quote or as a symbolic excuse to build a universal discourse against marginality, frustration, fear, censorship, violence, impotence, and to search for freedom, topics which were extremely sensitive for the artist and for Cuba during the 1990s due to the profound economic and political crises resulting from the collapse of European socialism.


Cristina Vives



Estate Belkis Ayón / Estudio Figueroa-Vives / Landau Traveling Exhibitions



Convento San Francisco de Asís, Havana (September 11, 2009)

Fowler Museum at UCLA, Los Angeles (October 2, 2016 – February 12, 2017)

El Museo del Barrio, New York (June 12 – November 5, 2017)

Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO (January 25 – April 28, 2018)

The Station Museum of Contemporary Art, Houston (June 2 – September 3, 2018)

The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Arizona (October 27, 2018 – February 3, 2019)

Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago (February 28 – May 24, 2020)


Awards / Recognitions

National Curatorship Award, Cuba, 2010

Critic′s Picks 2017, The New York Times

Critic′s Picks 2017, Artforum


Frieze, United States / January 18, 2019

How the Myth of a Sacrificed Princess Bewitched Printmaker Belkis Ayón

By Natalie Haddad

Love, betrayal and grief: the late Cuban artist’s first US museum retrospective reveals the full range of her powers…



The New York Times, United States / June 22, 2017

From Cuba, a Stolen Myth

By Holland Cotter

El Museo del Barrio in Manhattan opened “NKame: A Retrospective of Cuban Printmaker Belkis Ayón,” reminding us exactly how much we have to gain from a free exchange of cultural energy with our island neighbor…



The New York Times, United States / December 6, 2017

The Best Art of 2017

By Roberta Smith, Holland Cotter and Jason Farago

The art critics of The New York Times Roberta Smith, Holland Cotter and Jason Farago share their picks for the best art of the year…



Huffington Post, United States / January 3, 2017

Exploring the Shadowy World of a Cuban Feminist Legend

By Priscilla Frank

As part of her unique process, Ayón collaged a variety of textured materials ― from soft paper to sandpaper to vegetable peelings ― onto a cardboard matrix, which she’d then cover with ink and run through a printing press…



The New Yorker, United States / July, 2017

NKAME: A Retrospective of Cuban Printmaker Belkis Ayón

By Editorial The New Yorker

The Cuban artist’s big, richly textured collographs—made by running collaged cardboard through a printing press—are populated by mysterious, silhouetted figures with piercing, almond-shaped eyes…



Artforum, United States / December, 2016

Critic’s Picks, Belkis Ayón

By Andrea Gyorody

If you have never seen a collagraph by the late Cuban artist Belkis Ayón, her first US retrospective will be a revelation. Created between 1984 and 1999, nearly all of the forty-three works on view are populated by mouth-less mythical characters who face outward to address us, in defiance of their inability to speak…



Rialta Magazine, Mexico / March, 2020

Cristina Vives habla de Nkame, exposición de gira por Estados Unidos

By Jamila Medina

No en balde, al pozo de Belkis dan ganas de volver porque el agua de su voz no se agota; porque creó –como ella misma nos recuerda en su catálogo más representativo– “imágenes para las más variadas historias del mito, motivada por sus lecciones sobre el cuestionamiento humano, sobre la lucha por la conservación y la sobrevivencia, sobre las coincidencias simbólicas y de significado con otras culturas distantes en espacio y tiempo”.



Vistar magazine, Cuba / February 26, 2020

Los enigmáticos grabados abakuá de Belkis Ayón llegan a Chicago

By Redacción Vistar

En los últimos años ha ocurrido una especie de re-descubrimiento internacional de la obra de Belkis Ayón, que se suicidó en La Habana en 1999, con solo 32 años. La exposición NKAME: A Retrospective of Cuban Printmaker Belkis Ayón quedará abierta al público el viernes 28 de febrero en el Chicago Cultural Center, tras haber viajado por otras ciudades norteamericanas como Los Ángeles y New York.



La Campana News, United States / March 4, 2020

Nkame: Exposición retrospectiva de la artista afrocubana Belkis Ayón en Chicago

By Elvira Aballí Morell

Llega a Chicago la exposición retrospectiva de la afrocubana Belkis Ayón, en virtud de las gestiones de la curadora Christina Vives y la familia de la artista, acogida desde el 29 de febrero al 24 de mayo, por la sala Sidney R. Yates del Chicago Cultural Center. “The People’s Palace” exhibe las cuarenta y siete colografías—técnica de grabado creada por Glen Alps—comprendidas entre los tardíos años ochenta y noventa del siglo pasado.



The Brooklyn Rail, United States / September 7, 2017

Belkis Ayón: NKame

By Will Whitney

The first emotion that hits upon entering NKAME is intrigue. Belkis Ayón died. She was 32. She killed herself. Set neatly next to the curator’s statement are the words, “Do not recall in your sleep any of your siblings who cry over your absence.”…



La Opinión, United States / September 6, 2017

Belkis Ayón: la maldición de Sikán

By Joaquín Badajoz

Sobre esa leyenda cruel, como suelen ser casi todos los mitos esenciales, se construyó una de las más enigmáticas sociedades secretas: la Abakuá o de los negros ñáñigos. En torno a ella también gira una de las obras más sobrecogedoras del arte contemporáneo, realizada por la grabadora cubana Belkis Ayón, de la que El Museo del Barrio exhibe una importante retrospectiva…



Arte por Excelencias, Spain / June 13, 2017

El Museo del Barrio. NKAME: A Retrospective of Cuban Printmaker Belkis Ayón

By Arte por Exelencias Editorial Staff

This landmark retrospective is the first in the U.S. dedicated to the work of Belkis Ayón (1967–1999)—the late Cuban visual artist who mined the founding myth of the Afro-Cuban fraternal society Abakuá to create an independent and powerful visual iconography…



Granma, Cuba / September 19, 2017

La obra de Belkis Ayon se adueña de Nueva York

By Virginia Alberdi

En el panorama contemporáneo de las artes plásticas en Cuba, Belkis Ayón (1967–1999) logró una marca visual indiscutible. El más reciente hito del interés internacional por su obra se situó en el Museo del Barrio, de Nueva York, que acoge desde el reciente verano del 2017 la muestra titulada Nkame: una retrospectiva…



Artishock, Chile / July 7, 2017

NKAME: una retrospectiva de la grabadora cubana Belkis Ayón

By Artishock Editorial Staff

El Museo del Barrio, en Nueva York, presenta Nkame: Una retrospectiva de la grabadora cubana Belkis Ayón, sin duda una de las mejores muestras de los últimos años en esta institución, y una de las más singulares en el actual calendario neoyorquino…



Artnet News, United States / August 16, 2017

What’s the Best Work of Art you saw this Summer? 18 Well-Traveled Experts Weigh In

By Artnet Editorial Staff

La cena is the first work you see when entering this generous retrospective of innovative printmaker Belkis Ayón on view at El Museo del Barrio…



Los Angeles Times, United States / September 25, 2016

A haunting view of Cuba. The late Cuban artist Belkis Ayón’s mysterious world unfurls at the Fowler Museum

By Deborah Vankin

Cuban artist Belkis Ayón’s family home sits on a quiet street of central Havana, the charm of the house belying the mysteries of her death. White shutters open to leafy banana trees and crowing roosters. A warm, mango-scented breeze wafts through the central hallway, which is lined with the artist’s storied prints…



Cuba Counter Points, United States / November, 2016

Belkis Ayón in L.A. On Surfaces, Skins and Secrets

By Christina García

For the opening reception of Nkame, a retrospective of work by the Cuban artist Belkis Ayón (1967-1999), the UCLA Fowler museum appeared full to capacity. This is the first, and sorely overdue, solo exhibit of the late artist’s work in the United States…



Artishock, Chile / November 5, 2016

Primera individual en EEUU de Belkis Ayón, una artista prolífica en su corta vida.

By Artishock Editorial Staff

El Museo Fowler de la UCLA, en Los Angeles, acoge la primera exposición individual en Estados Unidos dedicada a la artista visual cubana Belkis Ayón (1967-99), quien durante su breve pero fértil carrera produjo una extraordinaria obra que hoy por hoy tiene un lugar preponderante en la historia del grabado contemporáneo en Cuba…



Hyperallergic, United States / December, 2016

Best of 2016: Our Top 10 Los Angeles Art Shows

By Hiperallergic Editorial Staff

UCLA’s Fowler Museum presents a mind-blowing retrospective of Belkis Ayón, a Cuban artist for whom wide recognition is long overdue. She was a master of collography…



Cuban Art News, United States / November 8, 2016

El mundo misterioso de Belkis Ayón

By Lidia Hernández Tapia

Por primera vez una exposición personal de la artista llega a estados Unidos. Nkame: A Retrospective of Cuban Printmaker Belkis Ayón es también la primera muestra individual suya fuera de la Isla. Con sus signos de inspiración religiosa, figuras rodeadas de misterio, texturas de piel animal, y mucho por descifrar aún, su simbología se revela ahora al público estadounidense…



Arts & Antiques, United States / November, 2016

Belkis Ayón: Mythical Figures

By Sarah E. Fensom

Cuban artist and printmaker Belkis Ayón’s wanted her images to envelop the viewer. Says Cristina Vives, the guest curator of the exhibition “Nkame: A Retrospective of Cuban Printmaker Belkis Ayón,”…



Hyperallergic, United States / December 20, 2016

The Masterful, Unsettling Work of a Female Cuban Printmaker

By Daniel Gerwin

You may not have heard of one of the greatest printmakers of the 20th century, but you can see her work now in a retrospective at UCLA’s Fowler Museum…



Artillery magazine, United States / December 21, 2016

Fowler Museum: Belkis Ayón

By Simone Kussatz

“Nkame,” the Belkis Ayón retrospective at the Fowler Museum, comprised of 43 collography prints, is about the Abakuá, an all-male secret society in Havana, formed by a group of slaves from southern Nigeria. However, there is another layer in Ayón’s body of work…



Arte por Excelencias, Spain / November 2, 2010

Nkame: un altar en blanco y negro para Belkis Ayón

By Soleida Ríos

A la grandiosa exposición –no puede llamársele de otro modo– que en el pasado 2009 ocupara el espacio del convento de San Francisco de Asís en La Habana Vieja, viene a sumarse ahora este catálogo, fruto de la pasión, la persistencia y el desvelo del Estate de Belkis Ayón, Dra. Katia Ayón…



Havana Times, Cuba / September 27, 2009

El misterio de Belkis Ayón

By Irina Echarry

En 1999 la pintora y grabadora Belkis Ayón decidió poner fin a su vida, solo tenía 32 años y ya era una de las artistas plásticas más talentosas y reconocidas de la isla…



Juventud Rebelde, Cuba / October 9, 2009

Convento de San Francisco muestra exposición antológica de Belkis Ayón

By Aracelys Bedevia

Con ojos que no dan tregua, la obra de Belkis Ayón nos contempla desde las salas del tercer piso del Convento de San Francisco de Asís, lugar elegido para mostrar la primera exposición antológica de la artista, fallecida repentinamente hace una década…



El Sr. Corchea, Cuba / March, 2020

Recordando a Belkis Ayón

By Isbel Alba

El presente texto fue escrito en 2009 a propósito del X aniversario del fallecimiento de Belkis Ayón pero continúa con una vigencia que pareciera escrito ayer en la noche. También resulta interesante pues da fe de Nkame, la muestra que hoy puede disfrutarse en el Chicago Cultural Center pero 11 años atrás, desde su misma génesis. (Nota de la editora).


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