As Decree 349 came into force last week, Cuban artists protesting Decree 349 were arrested.
Artists included Tania Bruguera, currently exhibiting in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. Under Decree 349, the Cuban government had decreed that any art not sponsored by the government would be impounded, the artists who made it arrested, along with any supporter, buyer of art, venue that put on art events and so on, would also face huge fines and arrests. This covers art made in public or private spaces.
International outcry – including a demonstration in Turbine Hall to show solidarity – has led the Cuban Government to climb down from this draconian position, and release the imprisoned artists. The government is also revising the ruling.
Speaking to the Art Newspaper, Cuba’s Vice Minister of Culture Fernando Rojas said that the measures were originally intended to allow officials to respond to public complaints against vulgarity in popular culture or misuse of socialist symbolism. But ultimately, the government failed to sufficiently explain the point of the new law to the public. “There wasn’t an advance explanation of the law and that’s one of the reasons for the controversy it unleashed,” he said.