Surrealist Utopias and the Cuban Revolution


  • Anne Foucault Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou


The recognition in 1964 of the Cuban revolution by the Parisian surrealists gathered around André Breton can be explained by the presence in its ranks of two artists born on the island (sculptor Agustín Cárdenas and painter Jorge Camacho), but also by what firstly appears to be, quoting Régis Debray, a “revolution in the revolution.” At a time when the Western working class seemed to have abandoned its “revolutionary role,” and the “socialist democracies” of the East showed no hope of real emancipation, the first years of the Castrist regime, which promoted a resistance to North American imperialism and to Soviet authoritarianism, seemed to propose a third way, and soon became a leading symbol of the Third World revolutionary potentiality. Castro’s declared willingness to move away from Soviet methods, Guevara’s defense of revolutionary internationalism, and proclamations concerning the freedom of art convinced some of the Surrealists to accept Wifredo Lam's official invitation to join the Salón de Mayo organized in La Habana in July 1967. As shown by the debates the trip to Cuba generated later in the Paris Group, the Cuban revolution prompted the Surrealists to define how they could get involved in the anti-imperialist struggle, but also to revise their conception of revolution.

Author Biography

Anne Foucault, Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou

Anne Foucault defended her PhD in contemporary art history on post-war Parisian Surrealism, which is soon to be published. In this study, she confronts the artistical and political activities of the Surrealist Group with the historiographical mechanisms that marginalized this part of the movement. She participated in several conferences in France, England and the United States and has published a series of articles (Europe, Revue française d’Histoire du livre) on historiographical, artistic and commercial aspects of this period of Surrealism and also on the links between artistic and poetic production in the work of Ghérasim Luca and Claude Tarnaud. After having held teaching assistant positions in Université Paris-Nanterre and Université Lyon II, she is now working at the Centre Pompidou on a publication project about André Breton’s studio wall, under the direction of curator Aurélie Verdier.