A painter, draftsman, engraver, illustrator and sculptor, Roberto Fabelo was born in Guáimaro, Cuba, on January 28, 1950. His childhood was spent in his native town, where he drew constantly on paper he found randomly. His passion for drawing––or “graphomania,” as he calls it––began at that moment. What started out as an amusing pastime little by little became a vice, as the support he enjoyed became a catalyst for him to let his imagination flow, resulting in sketches in which he utilized pencil, charcoal, ink or any other artistic medium. As the researcher, curator and art critic Llilian Llanes would say on one occasion, “It’s as though he came into this world with a pencil in is hand”. After completing his primary studies, Fabelo moved to Havana in search of professional academic training. From 1967 to 1972 he studied at the National School of Art (Escuela Nacional de Arte, ENA) and later continued his training at the Higher Institute of Art (Instituto Superior de Arte, ISA), also in Havana, where he graduated in 1981 after another five years of study. He then carried out the duties of professor for many years at this prominent educational institution of higher learning, as well as working as a teacher at three levels of artistic education.
Fabelo’s portrait at his studio taken by photographer David Bailey, who has worked for Vogue since 1960. Bailey was one of the pioneers of Swinging London, an artistic movement that revolutionized fashion, film, visual arts and television in the 1960s.
Fabelo with Agustín Cárdenas in Paris, 1982. Cárdenas was a member of Los Once (The Eleven), Havana, and participant of the Surrealist Movement. He was awarded a Biennial Prize, Paris, 1965, and a National Visual Arts Award, Cuba, 1995.
Fabelo during his exhibition at Latin American Space in Paris, 1982, with Brazilian artist Arthur Luiz Piza.
At Latin American Space in Paris, 1982, with singer songwriter, guitarist, poet and writer Atahualpa Yupanqui, considered one of the most important Argentinean folk musicians ever.
In the 1970s, Fabelo belonged to the first generation of ENA graduates (on one occasion designated as the “generation of true hope”) and also those of the ISA in the 1980s, a period during which he acquired notable visibility on the national and international art scenes. Since then, he has enjoying a prolific professional career, exploring almost all of the manifestations of the visual arts.
At the René Portocarrero Silk Screen Workshop, Havana, 1986, with Peruvian painter and artist Herman Braun and Nelson Domínguez, winner of the National Visual Arts Award, Cuba, 2009.
Fabelo at his studio, Havana, 1988. Photo: Mario Díaz.
He has given lectures and been a juror in various visual art competitions in Cuba and throughout the world. He is a member of the Cuban Writers and Artists Union (Unión de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba, UNEAC) and the International Association of Art (IAA/AIAP). In 1996, he was awarded the UNESCO Prize for the Promotion of the Arts in Paris. Since 2002, his Autorretrato (Self-Portrait) has been part of the permanent collection of the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence, Italy, a museum housing one of the oldest and most famous art collections in the world. He earned the National Visual Arts Award, 2004, as well as the National Culture Award, both bestowed by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Cuba. Additionally, Fabelo has been recognized with the Abel Santamaría Medal, the Alejo Carpentier Medal and the Juan Marinello Prize, established by the Council of State of the Republic of Cuba. He has also received a commemorative plaque on the occasion of the 480th anniversary of the founding of San Cristóbal de La Habana, as well as the Plaque of the Community of Andalusia, Spain. In 2007, the directorate of the Higher Institute of Art, in Havana, granted him the special designation of consulting professor. He also holds the Diploma for Artistic Merit, awarded by this important center of studies.
After having given a lecture at the Salamanca University in 1994, with professor José Luis López-Aranguren Jiménez, one of the most influential Spanish philosophers and essayists of the 20th century.
With Abel Prieto, minister of culture of the Republic of Cuba (1997-2012), and Rafael Acosta, president of the Plastic Arts Council (1995-2009), during the National Visual Arts Award ceremony, Havana, 2004, during which Fabelo received an award for his work.
He has received more than 20 professional awards throughout his career, including the Acquisition Award at the Third Triennial of Contemporary Art in New Delhi, India, 1978; the Intergraphik Drawing Award, Berlin, Germany; the Prize at the Ninth Drawing Exhibition, Rijeka, Yugoslavia; and the International Prize for Drawing at the First Biennial in Havana, all of these in 1984. This latter prize was received thanks to his work Fragmentos vitales (Vital Fragments), about which Llilian Llanes said, “It would surprise all of us who had the privilege to see it. Some day this piece will be recognized for its value within the history of Cuba art, because until then no other artist on the national art scene had violated a flat work of art in such a way.” In 1993, Fabelo received first prize at the Eleventh International Biennial of Drawing in Cleveland, Great Britain, and in 1996 first prize at the First Latin American Biennial of Watercolor, Viña del Mar, Chile.
Fabelo with the piece for which he won the Armando Reverón International Drawing Award in the First Havana Biennial, 1984.
With one of the works exhibited at “Fragmentos vitals” (Vital Fragments), National Fine Arts Museum, Havana, 1988.
During his solo exhibition “Fragmentos vitales” (Vital Fragments), National Fine Arts Museum, Havana, 1988.
He has held 42 solo exhibitions in 11 countries, including the United States, Cuba, Mexico, Panama, Venezuela, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Greece, Sweden and Switzerland. Of these, 10 have taken place in prominent museums and as part of vaunted art festivals, among them the National Fine Arts Museum, in Havana, where to date he has inaugurated five solo shows: in 1986 during the Second Havana Biennial; in 1988 “Fragmentos vitales”; in 2003 “Un poco de mí” (“Part of Me”); in 2005 “Mundos” (“Worlds”), collateral to the Ninth Havana Biennial; and in 2009 “Sobrevivientes” (“Survivors”), an intervention on the façade of the institution that was added to the events of the Tenth Havana Biennial. Today, the National Fine Arts Museum has in its collection 36 of Fabelo’s works.
The artist and his wife Suyu with French singer-songwriter Charles Aznavour, who is of Armenian origin but considered “the ambassador of French song,” and Gabriel Tortella, founder of the Swiss magazine Tribune des Arts, during his solo exhibition at the Charlotte Moser Gallery, Geneva, 2000.
With Colombian painter, sculptor, draftsman and muralist Fernando Botero, Zurich, 2001.
With his friend Gabriel García Márquez, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, at Fabelo’s solo exhibition “Un poco de mí” (Part of me), National Fine Arts Museum, Havana, 2003.
Fabelo and Suyu with his friend García Márquez, his wife Mercedes, and Mr. Espinosa at Fabelo’s solo show “Mundos” (Worlds), National Fine Arts Museum, Havana, 2005.
His works have been included in approximately 500 group exhibitions in 34 countries, including the United States, Canada, Cuba, Costa Rica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Belgium, the former Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Spain, Finland, France, England, Italy, Luxembourg, the Principality of Monaco, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland, the former Yugoslavia, China, India, Japan and Algeria. Of these, 17 have taken place in museums.
During his solo exhibition at Espace Cominnes with French art critic Pierre Restany, founder of ‘New Realism’ and author of the first manifesto of this artistic movement in 1960, Paris, 2000.
Fabelo while signing catalogues of the exhibition “Three Names – Three Concepts – Three Paths,” organized by his friend, Rioja-based gallerist Pedro Torres, at the gallery that bears his name and where works by Fabelo, Lucio Muñoz and Manolo Valdés were exhibited. In the photo are, among others, architect Enrique Hernadíz and his wife Rosi, businessman Jesús Polanco and his wife Marilu Barreiros, writer Carmen Posada, the banker Emilio Ybarra, and businesswoman Alicia Koplowitz. The photo was taken at the artist’s studio, Havana, 2001.
With Alberto II, Prince of Monaco during the exhibition “Nine Cuban Painters,” at the Antonio I Hall, Monaco Principality, 2005.
With painter Mimmo Rotella, considered the “Italian Andy Warhol,” during the exhibition “Nine Cuban Painters” at the Antonio I Hall, Monaco Principality, 2005.
During his participation in Expo Chicago 2014 with gallerist Ramon Cernuda (his gallery, CernudaArte, represents Fabelo’s works in Florida) and Dr. Mario José Hernández, Fabelo’s agent.
Prominent personalities in art and culture have varied opinions of Fabelo’s oeuvre. In 1989, Eliseo Diego, “one of the greatest poets of the Spanish language,” according to Gabriel García Márquez, described his friend Fabelo as “He whose pulse is so true to his dream.” Dr. Eusebio Leal Spengler, historian of the City of Havana, wrote in 2000, on the occasion of the artist’s 50th birthday, about “a work that––as the supreme mentor of this day, José Martí said––is that of his personal visions: when he has stopped seeing them, he has stopped painting them.” José Luis Cuevas, mentioned by The New York Times in 1967 as one of the greatest draftsmen of the 20th century, described Fabelo in the interview by Rafael Acosta for La Gaceta de Cuba and later included in his book Caminos de la mirada (2007), as an “excellent draftsman, one of the greatest draftsmen of Latin America, definitively a magnificent draftsman, truly splendid within a very sound realism.” For his part, Stuart Ashman, president and director of the Museum of Latin American Art (MoLAA) in Long Beach, Cal., said in the catalogue of the solo exhibition “Anatomía de Fabelo” (June-November 2014) that the artist is considered by many to be like the Honoré Daumier of contemporary Cuban art, whose works contain references to The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, to the magic realism of García Márquez, to Hieronymus Bosch, to the skill of the Dutch and Flemish masters and to the soul of Rembrandt. The prominent art critic James Scarborough also voiced a similar opinion writing about the exhibition in The Huffington Post. A short time later the opinions of both of them were echoed by Peter Clothier in his essay Roberto Fabelo, exploring the profound region, included in the catalogue of the exhibition “Fabelo: Recent Works” (Couturier Gallery, Los Angeles, 2014).
With Eliseo Diego, National Literature Award of Cuba and Juan Rulfo Award (Mexico), Havana, 1989.
With José Luis Cuevas, painter, draftsman, writer, engraver, sculptor and illustrator, one of the main figures of the “Rupture Generation” with Mexican mural painting and one of the most outstanding members of the Neo-figurative art movement. Studio of the artist, Havana, 2004.
With Dr. Eusebio Leal Spengler, historian of the City of Havana, at Fabelo’s studio, Havana, 2009.
Fabelo and Stuart Ashman, president and CEO of the Museum of Latin American Art (MoLAA), during the opening of the solo show “Fabelo’s Anatomy,” Long Beach, CA, 2014.
Fabelo’s extensive work as an illustrator is well known. He has illustrated 42 books, among them El acoso, a novel by Cuban storyteller Alejo Carpentier, winner of the Miguel de Cervantes Award (Spain) and Prix Médicis (France). He also illustrated Máscaras, by Leonardo Padura, winner of the National Literature Award (Cuba) and Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France); The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi; El amor y los ángeles by the winner of the Miguel de Cervantes Award, Rafael Alberti; the story La increíble y triste historia de la cándida Eréndira y su abuela desalmada and the novel Cien años de soledad, both by García Márquez, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982 and a dear friend of Fabelo and collector of his work, who on more than one occasion described him as one of the best draftsmen in the world. The work that served as the cover of that edition of Cien años de soledad, an acrylic on silk with the same title as the literary work, was sold by the auction house Christie’s in New York.
During the homage to Spanish writer Rafael Alberti on the occasion of his appointment as Member of Honor of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba, Havana, 1991. The award certificate was illustrated by Fabelo.
With his friend García Márquez at the artist’s studio, Havana, 1992.
With Spaniard Carmen Balcells, the most famous publishing agent of Hispanic literature in the world. Balcells has been the agent of six Literature Nobel Prize nominees. Fabelo’s studio, Havana, 2005.
With renowned Cuban writer Leonardo Padura, who wrote one of the texts for the catalogue of Fabelo’s exhibition “No somos animales” (We Are Not Animals), Galería Habana, Havana, 2012.
Furthermore, he has illustrated a significant number of albums for singer/songwriters of international renown, like Érase que se era, by his dear friend Silvio Rodríguez, winner of the National Music Award, Cuba, and recipient of a lifetime Premio Latino, granted by the Academia de las Artes y las Ciencias de la Música of Spain. Silvio, in turn, dedicated to Fabelo an intriguing piece entitled Del sueño a la poesía. He also illustrated the album Plegaria by another dear friend, Pablo Milanés, a two-time Latin Grammy Award winner, who dedicated to him the song entitled Fabelo. He has also collaborated with the famous Spanish singer/songwriter and poet Joaquín Sabina, illustrating his albums Alivio de luto and Besos con sal, which is included in the book Con buena letra. Sabina, in his book Esta boca es mía, dedicates to Fabelo the poem La Habana. In addition, Leo Brouwer, the notable Cuban composer and instrumentalist, dedicates to him Fabelo, found in his collection of works for the piano draft number eight.
With Cuban singer Silvio Rodríguez during the shooting of the documentary film “Del sueño a la poesía” (From Dream to Poetry), artist’s studio, Havana, 1993. Watch video
With Leo Brower, Cuban composer, guitarist and conductor; Tomas Luis de la Victoria, winner of the Latin-American Award and founder of the Guitar International Festival, which carries his name; and Gabriel Tortella. Artist’s studio, Havana, 2001.
Singer-songwriter Pablo Milanés while honoring Fabelo with his songs during the award ceremony of the National Plastic Arts Award, Havana, 2004. Watch video
With Spanish musician Joaquín Sabina and Jimena Coronado, artist’s studio, Havana, 2005.
The most prominent Cuban art critics have written about his oeuvre. Among them are Alejandro Alonso, Caridad Blanco, Antonio Eligio Fernández (Tonel), Nelson Herrera Ysla, Llilian Llanes, Manuel López Oliva, David Mateo, Hortensia Montero, Gerardo Mosquera, José Manuel Noceda and José Veigas, who is in charge of the artist’s well-reasoned catalogue, which is currently being produced.
With researcher, curator and art critic Llilian Llanes and Raúl Martínez, Cuban painter, photographer, muralist and graphic artist. Havana, 1995.
With his wife Suyu, dignitaries of the Cuban Embassy in Italy, friends of the artist, and art critic and curator Nelson Herrera Ysla during the official presentation of the self-portrait of the artist to Galleria Degli Uffizi, Florence, 2002.
In 2013, the Office of the Historian of the City of Havana placed a sculpture of Fabelo in the Plaza Vieja, considered one of the most beautiful colonial spaces in Cuba and all of Latin America. Viaje fantástico, at 93.5 by 86 by 40 inches, has already become the symbol of that space and has found a place in the memory of those who visit Havana, thus becoming one of the most photographed sculptures in the city and nation.
“Viaje fantástico” by Fabelo at Plaza Vieja, Havana, 2013.
An additional edition of “Viaje fantástico” was acquired by The Related Group for the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM). It was unveiled during Art Basel Miami Beach 2014.
Fabelo’s pieces are part of private collections in 37 countries and of numerous institutional collections around the world. In Cuba, they can be found at the National Museum of Fine Arts, Casa de las Américas, Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Wifredo Lam, Banco Financiero Internacional, Office of the Historian of the City, Miramar Trade Center, Iglesia de Paula and Hotel Inglaterra. Outside of Cuba they can be found in the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy; Museum of Latin American Art of Los Angeles (MoLAA); Cleveland Gallery, Great Britain; Museum of Modern Art in New Delhi, India; Nordilland Kunstmuseum, Aalborg, Denmark; Museo de Arte Moderno and Museo Universitario del Chopo, both in Mexico City; Jordan Schnitzer Museum in Eugene, Oregon; Luciano Benetton Collection, Italy; Fundación Finsole S.P.A., Sicily, Italy; Howard and Patricia Farber Collection; Cuban headquarters at the United Nations, New York; and Alex and Carole Rosenberg Collection, New York.
Fabelo self-portrait in the permanent collection of Galleria Degli Uffizi. Left to right: the artist; Annamaria Petrioli Tofani, director of the museum; and Mrs. Flores, Cuban ambassador in Italy. Florence, 2002.
Installation that was part of the artist’s solo exhibition “Mundos” (Worlds), National Fine Arts Museum, Havana, 2005. Three of the spheres are part of the permanent collection of the FINSOLES. P.A. Foundation, Sicily, Italy.
Sculptures located in the façade of the National Fine Arts Museum during the Tenth Havana Biennial, 2009. One of them is part of the permanent collection of the museum and three are part of the Farber Collection.
Fabelo, together with Luciano Benetton, with one of the works that belongs to the Benetton collection. Artist’s Studio, Havana, 2011.
The artist with with some of his sculptures and paintings during the exhibition “Close Up Cuba” at Kunsthalle HGN. Today these pieces belong to the organizer of the exhibition, German professor Hans Georg Näder, president and CEO of the Otto Bock Business Group, Duderstadt, Germany, January 2014.
At MoLAA, with his piece “Gran león rojo en el Pequeño Teatro” (Big Red Lion at the Small Theater), 1996, bought by the museum at Sotheby’s (New York, 1999), and part of its permanent collection. Long Beach, CA, 2014.
Twenty-one of the 30 drawings acquired by The Related Group, chaired by businessman Jorge Pérez, for the museum that bears his name (PAMM). These works were exhibited at Pinta Miami, December 2014. Left to right: Carlos Rosso, Fabelo, Pérez and Dr. Mario José Hernández.
With Howard and Patricia Farber, creators of the private foundation that carries his name, devoted to promote, support and boost contemporary Cuban art and artist, Havana, 2015.