When they suggested me to present A Curator’s Eye,1 a book by art critic and essayist Corina Matamoros, I was enthused so much about the possibility of doing that because of the admiration and loving tenderness I feel for the author. Once read, I knew I have before me not only a compilation of texts, most of them the result of the curatorial exercise, but also a collection of personal experiences from one of our bold curators. She’s blessed with the privilege of having witnessed the growth of Cuba’s New Art within the process that gave birth to it, cleverly weaving the cobweb-like collection of the museum about this particular movement, a movement that back in the 1980s changed the experimental panorama and the social risk of the country’s plastic arts, something that has remained in place in the course of the past decades.

A Curator’s Eye is laid out peculiarly since it does not stick to a chronological or thematic order. There seems to be no order at all. Yet, there’s order in the criterion of grouping exhibitions (curated or not by her), plus a couple of unpublished materials and –perhaps the most significant of all– the end notes that come along with the writings and in which he points out about the “difficulties and teachings that can be drawn from each and every one of them.” Very personal notes that, in addition to their emotional value, reveal a didactic sense in keeping with difficulties, achievements and failures of a curatorial project from the word go to its entering the artistic ambience around it. And all this much seen by Corina is twice as much interesting: her exercise is ethical, sun through by her struggle to legitimize the talented young artists, the forgotten artists and those masters who stand closer to her version on the arts.

This exercise sheds brighter light on an expert whose uneasy reflections, her personal references and the memories that attach her to each exhibiting effort through a refined style of her own, seems to come closer to interests of a post critic who writes literature from her curatorial habits, intuiting forecasts for such diverse critical, complex and booming scenario as Cuba’s, yet also working painstakingly to make those dreams come true.

In one of the notes Corina writes: “Curators tend to be the best spectators in the world and learn from all experiences, from their achievements and mistakes. By nature we carry the implicit flair of the critic.” Hers is a double exercise of doubt and reaffirmation, a teaching process based on no pre-established methodologies, carried through from the humbleness and simplicity she’s characterized by, waging great daily battles that turn out to be skirmishes usually forgotten in a context like ours with such a poor memory.

The book picks up comments on different expressions of the plastic arts that speak volumes of a working style that pays close attention to each and every one of the starting points of a process that ends with the exhibition of the artworks. There are four examples I want to strike the reader’s attention about since they point to different directions, thus giving us the possibility of coming closer to this particular universe we’re ruled under fixed laws. Its guidelines are dictated by the curator’s capacity and sensitivity when it comes to comprehending what he or she needs in each poetic imaginary, each exposition and each context.

In the case of one of Sandra Ceballo’s individual exhibits, Corina tells us that once the text was done, she showed it to the artist and Ceballos made the following comment: “How did you know that Emily Dickinson was my favorite poetess?” “Well, I didn’t know that. How could I have known? A curator has to get hooked up with the work and the artist.”

During the preparation of one of Moises Finale’s individual expositions, her job was not limited to writing the texts, but also to making the chronology. “It was a perfect lesson because that kind of writing brings about a huge job in terms of information search, compilation of documents, historic reenactments and abundant synthesis.” And it all happened as she said: it was an exercise of humbleness in which she shared the outcomes of her personal commission with some of the most authorized voices of the Cuban cultural scene.

Coupled with the enthusiasm as a collector, she has managed to heed the emerging practices and that is clearly seen in the text on Luis o Miguel entitled “Report on Illusions”, based on a relational, social-integrating kind of art. The artwork dazzled her in such a way, that she described it like this: “A little tired of small-fry performances, the commotion I felt in that vacant lot made me harbor big hopes, seeing other paths for the Cuban arts. A curator ought to know how to get moved”.

Finally, maybe one of the most intricate experiences culled in the book is the one that tells us about the work around the individual exhibit staged by Lazaro Saavedra. Every visitor knew that some of his major artworks were missing. But even she knew beforehand that’s how the public was going to react, Corina decided to move ahead with it:

Even relying on not-so-adequate artworks, aware of the many mistakes, it was important for me to take Saavedra within the boundaries of the National Museum and say, this is where all great artists belong to. The conceit of putting together a good curatorship cannot run over the historic willingness of showcasing the grandeur of his work. I felt this exposition was a must within the island nation’s cultural context, so I’m carrying its errors with sadness, but also with tremendous pride.

Such reflections stand for a model of memory that has been whipped into shape thanks to over two decades of toilsome work with the artistic practice, getting to understand from the experience itself how hard it is a curator’s job, how shaky his or her certainty is, and how high the burden of responsibility hanging on his or her decisions really is, chiefly when it comes to handpicking and legitimizing what has or doesn’t have artistic values in so plural and contaminated present as the one the arts have.

If readers start skimming through the forewords, they’ll know why the author defines curatorship as: “a hurricane of passions”. She rubs salt on the sores left by any curatorship, the insufficiencies, the improvisations, the curating pretentions of either “officials or amateurs […], the artists that can afford perks and those who don’t,” always bearing in mind that “the work with the symbolic creation of our contemporary artists is one of the riskiest curatorial tasks of all.”

The curatorial models broa- ched in this volume could prompt readers from any place in the world to share the reading of this book, even though the effort of conceiving expositions within the boundaries is quite different from the first idea all the way to its concretion, thus revealing a particular dynamics when hooked up with the art ruling bodies –even when all this much is on its way to be treated by the Postcolonial Studies, that is, in the best interest of the Visual Studies. But there’s a clear lack of theory good enough to underscore the value of experiences in explaining and protecting the artistic creation of our contexts and strengthening their interpretations.

All in all, this book highlights the author’s personal view in every comment on the different expositions, an experience that can be passed on and could perfectly become the soul of any curator, art critic or art historian, who do know like any other expert in the field the meaningfulness of a curator’s job, the judgments that emerge from the memory he or she amasses in the present, fully aware that those judgments will be reread and reassessed in the future.

If I’m allowed to get one last reference in edgeways –though I do not always agree with her standpoints, most of the time I do– I must say that in this book I have further cottoned on to Corina’s passion and talent, he staunch willingness to stand up for it and, above all, her tolerance to little by little teach us how to wage wars that can be won.