Juan Roberto Diago Durruthy (Havana, 1971)
Diago explains that when he was developing as an artist, during the difficult years of the 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union, he started to work with discarded objects like bits of wood, paint, and pieces of plastic that he found in his neighbourhood. “I knew the Arte Povera artists in Europe used these materials as a social protest, but that is not why I turned to them. I used them because I needed to, and because I liked them.” Creating often highly conceptual pieces using large-scale canvases, assemblages, sculptures and installations, Diago often explores the theme of slavery and racial prejudice.
Diago is the grandson of Juan Roberto Diago Querol, the leading Cuban painter of the 1940s and 1950s. He graduated from Havana’s San Alejandro Academy in 1990. Last year he featured in an article by Christie’s, the leading international art auctioneers, entitled ‘Six Contemporary Cuban artists you need to know about’ where he was described as “critically and commercially Cuba’s most successful artist”.
He has exhibited in solo shows extensively including France, Italy, the UK, Panama, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, the US and elsewhere and has also participated in the Venice Biennale and the International Contemporary Art Fair (FIAC), Paris. His work is in many collections all over the world. His most prestigious awards include Premio Salón de Pintura Contemporánea ‘Juan Francisco Elso’ (1995), presented by the Museum of Fine Arts in Havana and the Prix Amédée Maratier (1999), from the French Foundation ‘Kikoíne’ (first artist from Latin America to win this prize).
View video of interview with Diago for Havana Cultura – click icon bottom right for English subtitles