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Giulio V. Blanc papers, 1920-1995

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Rosa M. Fernández
Scope and Contents
The Giulio V. Blanc papers measure approximately 11 linear feet and 0.001 GB and date from 1920 to 1995. Compiled by Blanc since the beginning of his curatorial, writing, and research career in the 1980s, the papers consist primarily of artist files on Cuban, Cuban-American, and Latin American artists (1920-1995 and undated). Also found is biographical information (1994-1995), interviews by Blanc (1984-1987, 1994) and miscellaneous letters from artists and friends (1983-1995 and undated).
The first series, Biographical Files, 1994-1995 includes information about Blanc's career. Series 2: Miscellaneous Letters, 1983-1995, undated, consists of letters from artists and friends on various topics. Series 3: Artist Files, 1920-1995, undated, represents the bulk of the collection (approximately 300 artists in all, 6 linear feet), and contain materials either collected by Blanc or received by Blanc from the artists themselves. These consist of biographical material about the artist, usually two or three paragraphs written by Blanc, scattered resumes and copies of fellowship applications. Also found are newspaper clippings, exhibition announcements and catalogs, and letters or correspondence between Blanc and the artists. Of special interest in this series are numerous taped interviews with celebrated Cuban artists and art historians such as José Gómez Sícre, founder and first director of the Art Museum of the Americas, Organization of American States. Gómez-Sícre describes his early career and involvement with acquisitions for the museum's permanent collection as well as his working relationship with Alfred H. Barr, first director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Gómez-Sícre's notable book, Pintura Cubana de Hoy, published in Havana in 1944 is included in the files.
Elena Peláez de Medero, another interviewee, discusses her sister, Cuban painter Amelia Peláez (1896-1968). Blanc interviewed Elena Peláez in Miami for his 1988 exhibition Amelia Peláez: A Retrospective. The Peláez file includes Blanc's correspondence with her as well as copies of rare 1930s and 1940s exhibition catalogs from Amelia Peláez's early career. Among the catalogs is a copy of Modern Cuban Painters from the 1944 exhibition held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Also found are rare French, German and Spanish newspaper clippings on Peláez dating back to the 1920s. Of interest is a copy of Amado Blanco's 1937 poetry book, Poema desesperado. Published in Havana, the book is dedicated to the memory of Federico García Lorca and includes illustrations by Peláez.
Another prominent artist whom Blanc interviewed was Enrique Riverón (b. 1901) leader of the Cuban vanguardia. He was a member of El Grupo de Montparnasse, a talented group of painters and writers living in the southern district of Paris in the late 1920s, an area noted for its boisterous after-hour activities. The interview was published in the Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts in 1997. Also found in the papers are illustrated letters and greeting cards addressed to Blanc and his parents, Baron Lodovico Blanc and María V. Blanc.
Series 4: Exhibition Files, 1977-1995, undated, consists primarily of material Blanc compiled for exhibitions he curated. Found here are letters from museum directors, artists and colleagues, drafts and finished essays for exhibition catalogs, and printed material such as newspaper clippings of art reviews. This series also includes files on exhibitions Blanc did not curate.
Series 5: Subject Files, 1933-1995, undated, are files relating to Cuban art, culture, and society, the Cuban revolution, book projects, Biennials in Havana and São Paulo, the 1988 controversy surrounding the Cuban Museum of Arts and Culture (Miami, FL) and other topics. Found are letters, drafts of writings, notes, printed material such as newspaper clippings and magazine articles, press releases, and exhibition announcements.
Particularly extensive is the documentation about the 1980s conflict at the Cuban Museum of Arts and Culture. In April 1988, a fund-raising auction at the 24-year-old 'little Havana' institution resulted in heated disputes that escalated to violence. The works auctioned were by Cuban artists still living on the island. Many in Miami's Cuban community considered these artists to be supporters of the Communist regime and were outraged. One of the disputed works purchased the night of the auction, a drawing by Manuel Mendive, was taken across the street by its successful bidder and burned. In addition, the museum building was damaged by a pipe bomb shortly after the sale. In the National Public Radio news story (available in Blanc's papers on audio cassette) Helen Kohen, critic for the Miami Herald commented, "We're not talking about paintings. We're talking about `my brother's in jail'. That's what we're talking about." The situation intensified quickly; transcending local politics and involving the Treasury and Justice Departments, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Sotheby's and Christie's auction houses. Ramón Cernuda, the museum vice-president who organized the auction also had his personal collection of Cuban art impounded by the FBI. A second bombing took place in 1989 to protest an exhibition of Cuban artists who came to the U. S. during the early 1980s Mariel boatlift.
The seriousness of the conflicts in the Miami museum prompted the Museum of Modern Art in New York to withdraw an offer to lend three paintings to the Cuban museum for the 1988 exhibition Amelia Peláez: A Retrospective scheduled to open later that year. Curated by Giulio Blanc, it was the first U.S. retrospective of this important Cuban artist and the exhibition helped situate her work. The Cuban Museum of Art in Daytona Beach, an institution that helped start the Miami museum, also withdrew an offer to lend "Amelias". The result was an exhibition devoid of works owned by the Museum of Modern Art, important paintings created after 1963, the year President Kennedy imposed economic sanctions on Cuba.
To publicize the Peláez exhibition and boost attendance, the museum placed a public invitation in the Spanish section of the Miami Herald. The half page ad, also found in the Blanc papers, lists more than 100 intellectuals and professionals who supported the exhibition. Blanc stated in a letter to the Miami Herald, "It is horrifying to think there are those in Miami who would burn a painting for the sake of politics. This was the same reasoning utilized by Joseph Goebbels when he made bonfires of books and paintings by anti-Nazi and `degenerate' artists and writers in 1930s Germany... One can only pity the ignorance of those who play into the hands of the Castro regime by resorting to uncivilized tactics that can only hurt the image of the Cuban-exile community and of Miami in general."
The files concerning the Cuban Museum of Arts and Culture contain exhibition announcements, copies of court orders, press releases and correspondence between Blanc and the Museum of Modern Art in New York regarding the museum and the Peláez exhibition. Also included are a great number of newspaper articles printed in two of Miami's major newspapers, the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald which covered the story until it was resolved in the early 1990s. Offering additional information on the controversy are a number of letters addressed to either Blanc or his parents from artists and friends expressing either discontent with the museum's state of affairs or gratitude for the Blanc's financial support during the museum's reconstruction. These provide remarkable insight into a relatively heterogeneous Cuban community.
Series 6: Sound Recordings, 1992, 1994 consists of two untranscribed audio cassette tapes. One is of the 1992 College Art Association's session: Artistic Voices of Latin America: The Aesthetics of Anti-Colonialism held in Chicago, Illinois in which Giulio V. Blanc was a panelist. The other is a rare 1994 interview conducted by Blanc with poet-priest Monseñor Angel Gaztelu, a friend of many Cuban writers and artists, and who presided over Peláez's funeral service in 1968.
The last series, Series 7: Photographs, 1981-1993, undated, includes black and whiteportraits of artists, group shots of Blanc with "Miami Generation" artists María Brito, Pablo Cano, María Martínez-Cañas, Carlos Macía, Arturo Rodríguez, and César Trasobares, and photos of other artists.
Margherite Blanc, sister of Giulio V. Blanc, donated her brother's papers in 1998 to the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. This collection, along with numerous other Latino collections, was acquired through the 1996 Latino Art Documentation Project in South Florida. Initiated to chronicle the thriving art scene so apparent in the city's galleries, museums, and private collections, the project resulted in numerous acquisitions described in the revised edition of the Papers of Latino and Latin American Artists. Both the project and the publication were made possible, in part, with funding provided by the Smithsonian Institution's Center for Latino Initiatives.
Related Materials
Papers of Giulio V. Blanc, 1930-1982, are also located at the University of Miami Archival Collections.
Processing Information
Processing of the collection was completed by Rosa M. Fernández at the Archives of American Art, Washington, DC, June 26, 1999. The finding aid was revised in October 2001 prior to EAD conversion. Born-digital materials were processed by Kirsi Ritosalmi-Kisner in 2019 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Collections Care and Preservation Fund.