In early June, the Wolfsonian unveiled its latest exhibition, “Cuban Caricature and Culture,” presenting images from the famed graphic artist Conrado W. Massaguer. The images bring to life the vibrant, celebrity-laden tropical paradise that was pre-revolution Cuba, an island that was once frequented by the stars of Hollywood's golden era.
In the early to mid-20th Century, Massaguer depicted the era through caricatures and magazine advertising illustrations. Now the Wolfsonian is displaying his art to transport guests to Old Havana via its Hollywood in Havana night, which pairs Massaguer's “Cuban Caricature and Culture” exhibit with a screening of 2018's Errol Flynn’s Ghost: Hollywood in Havana. The documentary, presented in partnership with the Miami Beach Film Society, details Cuba's fascination with midcentury American cinema and a fateful mountaintop meeting between the legendary movie star Errol Flynn and Fidel Castro.
Danielle Bender, education manager at the Wolfsonian, says she has found people further appreciate and connect with exhibitions when they are paired with films that represent the same time period.
Many of the images depicted in Massaguer's collection appear in Errol Flynn’s Ghost. “While the film is not directly aligned [with the exhibition],” Bender says, “it really expresses the vibe of what Cuba was during that time period. Massaguer had close relationships with celebrities, so it seemed relevant to shine a light on Cuban cinema in the '40s and '50s.”
The event is particularly special, she says, because “ [for] most of the films we screen, the directors are no longer living.” But Errol Flynn’s Ghost director Gaspar Gonzalez, who is alive and well, will attend the screening at O Cinema Miami Beach and participate in an audience Q&A this Sunday afternoon.
“Massaguer would sometimes take Hollywood figures as his subject matter, but it goes beyond that,” Gonzalez says. “More broadly, he was engaged in a conversation with the modern world, the world of celebrity that the movies and other forms of mass media helped usher. In that sense, Errol Flynn's Ghost is a film about Massaguer's milieu.
“The Cubans who packed Havana's movie theaters to watch Hollywood movies were the same people Massaguer appealed to: cosmopolitan; fluent in both Cuban and American popular culture," the filmmaker adds. "That was his audience as well. That's a strong point of connection between the exhibition and the film."
Sunday's Hollywood in Havana event will begin with a tour of “Cuban Caricature and Culture” led by the Wolfsonian's resident curator, Frank Luca. Throughout the tour, guests will learn about the connections between the exhibition and the film before walking across the street to O Cinema for the screening.
The exhibit, coupled with the film, will offer a glimpse into a bygone era that still informs how Cubans — both at home and in exile — see the world today. “Conrado Massaguer’s art left an indelible mark on Cuba, helping to define not only what Cubans considered in vogue but also informing day-to-day culture and politics,” curator Luca says. “Although he won his international acclaim a century ago, his style remains fresh and imaginative in a way that still feels incredibly modern to us today.”
Hollywood in Havana. 4 p.m. Sunday, September 8, at the Wolfsonian-FIU, 1001 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; wolfsonian.org. Tickets cost $11.
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