Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes & around

The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes is a world-class cultural center. Its collections are housed in two separate buildings–one is the modern edifice Palacio de Bellas Artes (1954) containing Cuban painting and sculpture, while the International Collection (‘Arte Universal’) is housed in the jaw—droppingly grand ex—Centro Asturiano beside Parque Central. With nearly 50,000 pieces, this is Cuba’s most comprehensive art museum. It also has an specialized library and a large collection of magazines and catalogs.

Both the Cuban and the International collections should be high on the list for any visitor even remotely interested in art and culture. A combination ticket may be bought in either of Bellas Artes’ buildings, allowing visits to both, not necessarily on the same day, for a total of 10 CUC. You’ll have to be feeling pretty energetic to take it all in properly in one day—we’d advise dividing your visit, as both collections are rich and varied and are worthy of serious study.

The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes was created by presidential decree in 1913. Housed in three buildings that were inappropriate for exhibiting and preserving works of art, the Cuban art collection was moved to its current venue, a 1954 modernist building that features several pieces that complement its architectural style, including a sculpture by Rita Longa and, in the vestibule, a bas-relief and a mural by Jesús Casagrán and Enrique Caravia. It was reopened in 2001 to unanimous applause, following a five-year closure. No expense had been spared on the renovation work, catapulting it straight into the don’t-miss category.