STEADFAST ARTE: AN INTERVIEW WITH BRYANT TOTH

AN INTERVIEW WITH CHRISTINA ARZA

PHOTOS BY BRETT KINCAID

Bryant Toth is an art collector and gallerist based in New York City. His gallery and pop-up art shows center on shedding a much-needed light onto Cuban contemporary art. Since his first trip to Havana back in 2008, he has become a leading figure in bringing Cuban artists into the international arena, motivated by his fascination with Cuban culture, the paradox of the nation’s isolation, and its artists’ reflections of its ever-evolving self-identity.

CHRISTINA ARZA Can you describe BT one of your first trips to Cuba?

BRYANT TOTH First and foremost, I am passionate about people and cultures. As an avid traveler, it has always been important for me to see the true colors and emotions for each destination. I was introduced to Havana back in 2008 by my hospitality mentor, Sam DuVall— restaurateur, art enthusiast and genuine connoisseur of the world. The first moment I disembarked on Cuban soil, I quickly identified a real, thriving and addictive creative culture. Everything was honest from the art, music, culture, and community - Bryant Toth Fine Art was created from an appreciation of Cuba, its culture and creative talents. It provides a platform to celebrate, promote, and exhibit the powerful story of Cuba’s artistic community.

CA You solely represent Cuban artists. Why?

BT While there are many famous Cuban and Cuban American artists, there are many remarkable artist’s unknown to the rest of the world. e drastic isolation of Cuba has fueled this intense creative self-identity and something truly Cuban. But, the past social unrest has limited their exposure to markets around the world. I took it upon myself to focus on these underrepresented artists, offering them an opportunity to promote and tell their own stories. Initially focusing solely on Cuban artists while also focusing on areas of growth, education and cultural exchange.

CA I admire your love for the culture, people and artists of Cuba. It takes patience & appreciation to represent artists. What has been most rewarding in this journey as of yet?

BT Thee most rewarding part of this journey has been closely working with these artists—both in terms of representation but also the powerful relationships, which have developed. rough, exchanging knowledge and guidance, this journey has been rewarding every step of the way. While exposing Hector Frank’s work to new markets is the goal, inviting him to celebrate his work in person has truly been powerful.

CA What has been an obstacle in your pursuit?

BT While there are many obstacles in any pursuit, the main obstacle with working with Cuba are basic logistics. e limitation of resources such as materials, internet, cell, and transportation have proved di cult but not one we haven’t been able to solve through countless trip of personal interaction and hand carrying materials, supplies and paintings to and from Cuba.

CA Talk about your pop-up events—versus a traditional gallery space.

BT As I have previously stated - I am not only committed to introducing under-represented Cuban artists to new markets, but also to challenge the gallery-based model that currently dominates the art world. rough experience focused exhibitions and collaborations, my goal is to create emotional connections through each of my shows—First and foremost around the art, but accompanied by music, design, aesthetic, and community.

Pop-up exhibitions allow me to create a unique experience each time as well as target a vast array of different markets. While New York is a primary focus, the concept allows us to exhibit work in many cities around the world— projective markets are: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Aspen, Mexico City, Berlin, and Shanghai.

CA Where do you see Bryant Toth Fine Art in 10 years?

BT I’d love to continue hosting exhibitions in sophisticated and diverse cities around the world, while always focusing on positive change in Cuba. e opportunity to have these artists present during each exhibition and collaborating with different markets and cultures is a main focus. Every year is dynamic and I truly look forward to the future. 

STEADFAST ARTE: AN INTERVIEW WITH HECTOR FRANK

AN INTERVIEW WITH GABRIELLA OWENS

PHOTOGRAPHY BY BRETT KINCAID

Hector Frank was born in Havana in 1961 where he trained as an electrical engineer. Quitting this work to pursue art, Frank has since become an internationally- recognized contemporary artist. Renowned for his creativity of form and for his ability to depict the influences, colors, and textures of Cuban life, Frank’s mixed-media paintings offer a window into the diversity and vibrancy of the Cuban experience. 

GABRIELLA OWENS The concept behind a self-taught artist is one of intriguing nature; what was your personal experience developing your creative process and your choice of mediums? 

HECTOR FRANK It was like being born again. Everything was new and I began nding ways to translate my ideas on a canvas or through other supportive mediums. It was very di cult but also a very interesting process as I began to discover things unknown in myself. 

GO Your work has a sense of varying consistency. The focus upon the portrait remains the same, yet the substance within each piece seems to change. What inspires the consistency? What inspires the variety? 

HF What inspires me are human beings - with all of the forces and emotions that we bring in and not always externalize, but at the same time we betray our behavior. en I think of my characters (portraits) in a very particular way to catch certain feelings and visions that are these that characterize us and make us communicate without reasonable words.

GO How does your Cuban heritage inspire and influence your work? 

HF My Cuban heritage is the product of two strong cultures such as Spanish and African. I have a lot of both and my work can be re ected either by the colors, expressions, forms. It is impossible to escape this in uence. 

GO With the new political developments between Cuba and the United States, do you foresee this making a drastic impact upon your work? 

HF This has not had any dramatic impact on my work so far. (I think drastic is a very strong word to talk about the opening of relations that is still in its infancy) But it has given me the opportunity to present my work in some parts of the US and meet and exchange with artists who live there. I met Bryant before this process and we will have been together for a long time. He is a human being who deeply loves art and more importantly is an excellent person and a good friend. 

GO What is your voice? What do you want your audience to walk away with from your work? 

HF is is a paradox of trying to get closer to the human as today increasingly moves away. e great triumphs of humanity have been when we’ve been all together. However, more and more, our interactions are being reduced. We are the center of our civilization but when developments grow, we communicate less and I want this to reach the audience especially when I do these characters with headsets and distant faces. 

GO Can you use three adjectives to describe yourself as an artist and why? 

HF Well... I think I am persevering, hardworking and sincere in my work. Without these qualities, it would not have been possible to achieve what I have achieved until now, especially considering what I had to learn on my own.

GO Can you describe what the expression artistic freedom means to you? 

HF It is the possibility to express how you want. It is very important for any artist. 

GO What does the word steadfast mean to you? 

HF I think it must be a requirement in this profession. Naturally, it accompanies me in everything I set my mind in life.  

THE COVETEUR: THIS ART COLLECTOR'S HOME IS A TRAVELER'S PARADISE

By: Alicia Cesaro

Photography: Leslie Kirchhoff

Bryant Toth is single-handedly bringing Cuban art to the rest of the world.

For most (Americans), Cuba is a bucket-list destination; one they hope to visit before hordes of tourists arrive and ruin everything. For others, (pretty much every other nationality), it’s a place they’ve visited for years, taking in its unspoiled beaches, culture, and of course, cigars. For artist Bryant Toth, though, it’s a place he’s been lucky enough to both live and visit over the last seven years. The Californian-turned-New Yorker’s itch to travel to the island was influenced by his parents’ and mentors’ twenty years of experiences there. After only his first trip he became enthralled by the city of Havana and its abundance of unseen artists—and shortly thereafter his eponymous gallery, Bryant Toth Fine Art, was founded. His goal? To merge and saturate the American art world with that of Cuba. Specifically, the under-represented contemporary Cuban artists whom he has worked with and mentored.

Toth’s previous role in membership at Soho House allowed him to make the rounds in various cities, only proving his theory that the hotel industry can seemlessly bleed into music, fashion, film and of course, art. Ahead of his latest exhibition on November 3rd, Hector Frank’s Bridge to Cuba, we stopped by Toth’s Chinatown apartment to get a private tour and chat about the stories behind the artifacts—Cuban and otherwise—collected from his travels, why hospitality will always run through his veins, and what it’s like falling in love with America’s southern neighbors.

The Huffington Post: Cubas hottest new export may not be what you think

Written by: Michael Tommasiello

While Cuba may be known for its retro lifestyle, cigars and rum, throughout the years Bryant Toth has come to know it for something different. Bryant is almost single handily been responsible for bringing Cuban art and artists stateside, with his latest exhibition being aptly named Bridge To Cuba. Resulting from 12 trips to Cuba and a career curating membership at Soho House New York and Soho House Miami Beach, Toth was able to do what few people before him had been capable of, and that was to not only bring art from a place that was relatively untouched by American hands and create a market for it in the US.

Toth's latest exhibition features renown artist Hector Frank, who was born in Havana, Cuba in 1961 and currently still resides there. Having already been featured the New York Times, Forbes, Surface, and Departures, Frank continues his already successful career with this exhibition in Chelsea. Working with mixed mediums, Frank’s work comes to life by mixing textures and collages to bring the images to life. Toth and Frank were joined by many prominent faces in the art and fashion world at the opening that included the likes of Kinetics & One Love, Heron Preston, TK Wonder and Cipriana Quann, Fredrik Eklund, John Targon, Connor Franta, Lo Bosworth, Julia Loomis, Tyler Rowe, Ashley Wilcox Platt, Lexi Wood, Amalie Gassmann, Janica Compte, Nathaniel Dam, Amilna Estevao, Irina Shnitman, Manuela Frey, Oda Marie Nordengen, Anja Voskresenska Sanna Backstrom, Aku Orraca-Tetteh, Lucy Baaman, Kelly Connor, Grace Givens, Emma Morrison, Cyril Foiret and many more. The gallery remains open through Nov 10th and is located at Gallery 151 - 132 W 18th. St.

SURFACE MAGAZINE: Havana Rising

Written by: TONY PERROTTET

"Over the last 5 years, the new property laws have also led to a urry of private renovations of mansions surviving from another architectural golden age: the sugar boom years of the late 19th to early 20th centuries. For travelers, the most acces- sible are the paladares (home-spun restau- rants) and casas particulares (family-run hotels). Filmmaker Rafael Rosales, for example, has turned his town house, built in 1919, into Madrigal, a café and meeting spot with bizarre murals and memorabilia from Cuban cinema.

In the district of Playa, three up-and- coming young artists whose work sells in the six gures banded together to renovate a mansion into the slick 331 Art Space, whose crisp white lines and sun- lled sky- lights evoke a gallery in Chelsea. “Things have been busy since The New York Times and Wall Street Journal [both] pro led us,” says Frank Mujica, one of the trio, who cre- ates works of graphite on canvas. “There have been so many visitors that we have to limit access. We need to work some time!”

Nearby, the painter Hector Frank de- signed his own studio addition to his house, in part funded by a successful exhibition at the Chelsea Hotel in New York. Frank, now in his fties, is self-taught, and began making art in the austere Special Period— an era of economic turmoil in the early ’90s, precipitated by the fall of the Soviet Union. As a result, he takes a more ironic view of the fashionable Cuban art scene. His subtle portraits are embedded with found ob- jects from the city streets—sections of old doors, window frames, rusted handles. “I need to nd more garbage,” he says. “These discarded fragments have life, they have history. Havana is a treasure trove.”

This trend of renovating privately is still an experimental eld in Cuba. Architecture is not on the roster of professions permit- ted by the government, so the work must be done with guile. Artisans can now make and sell items like furniture and tiles, but they and interior designers often have lim- ited access to raw materials, so they become experts in improvising. As one designer told me, “This is Cuba. If something is not available, it is really not available!”

Still, I got a sense of the potential when

I dropped by the mansion of Josie Alonzo, a tiny, elderly woman who came to Cuba from Spain seven decades ago and has lived alone since her husband’s death a few years ago. Her rambling home was a Catholic version of house from The Addams Fam- ily, but also an artistic dream: Designers in London, Paris, and New York would kill to recreate her naturally distressed walls and ceilings. I was clearly not the only one fascinated by the house’s eerie beauty. Sit- ting on her dressing room table was a copy of last November’s issue of Vanity Fair. It turned out—in a twist only true to mod- ern Cuba—that Rihanna had been pho- tographed by Annie Liebowitz here for a cover story. “Rihanna was awful!” Señora Alonzo says, as she puttered in the kitch- en. “Such terrible manners. She didn’t say a word to me. But Annie was a wonderful person.” (Rihanna’s spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.) "

 

MANHATTAN DIGEST: Hector Frank’s Portraits: Celebrating Cuba, Celebrating People

Written By: Jessica Klein

Hector Frank’s portraits are as colorful as the Havana you can see when searching Google images. Presumably, they embody the spirit of Hector’s real Havana (to which I’ve never traveled), the vibrant but politically tumultuous city he grew up in.

“The color is natural in me,” Hector explained when I spoke to him a week after his opening at the Bryant Toth Fine Art show at Gallery 151 in Chelsea. Part of an exhibition that stemmed from the American Bryant’s love for Cuba and Cuban artists, whose work has been so difficult to traverse US borders for so long, Hector’s work reveals a compassion for the people of his country and their indomitable collective spirit, one that he certainly shares.

As an artist in Cuba during Communist party rule, Hector faced many problems. “You don’t have materials, you don’t have many other things,” he said.* “But it’s okay for your brain. You need problems for your brain to keep working, for inspiration. And my country has many, many problems. The people are happy…but they have nothing. There is never a complete solution for your problem, never. But for me the best is just going through and following your own path.”

Born in 1961 in Havana, Hector followed his path when he left his electrical engineering career to become a full-time artist. He at once seems to take the craft very seriously and with extreme lightness.

The lightness shows through his lack of self-critique. When asked if he has a favorite work in the Bryant Toth show, Hector replied, “All my favorite.” He starts creating one portrait, and when it gains the “energy” he desires, he’s finished. Maybe it’s the language barrier between us (Hector speaks Spanish better than English), but this strikes me as a less than heavy approach to artistic creation.

 

The seriousness comes through in his clear dedication. “I put my heart in this, and my time, and my brain. Look at this,” Hector held out his dry, possibly paint-covered (or maybe just very dry) hands. “This is my brain…my idea, my composition when finished comes out in this, my broken skin.” He described fighting an internal battle with himself as he creates each new piece of art “alone in my studio in the middle of the night…[I] work all night long, it is fantastico. No wife, no children, nothing…”

His portraits clearly look like they’ve been labored over, with love. Besides the bright, hectic but cohesive color palettes and the aspects of collage, Hector’s signature lies in his simplicity. He depicts faces with a few, judicious lines, some more defined than others, where a few drips of paint manifest a nose. The eyes are bright, the expressions varied. Several of his subjects (“no specific people”) wear headphones. Hector sees this as a commentary on information control, that people increasingly rely on media constantly fed through personal aural devices, and on personal isolation.

“Ten more years, and you’ll have a chip inside,” he tapped the side of his head. “People are very important for me, and in this life, people take more distance.” He noted that a common goal, once a person acquires capital, is to move away from others and create more and more space between themselves and their fellow humans, and this distance creates more problems. This is why people wear headphones, he said, “so people get away.”

While Hector uses painting as an opportunity to get away, spending long hours by himself in his studio, it is clearly in celebration of people, the joyous ones that he paints, collages, and even cuts out of wood. His dedication translates to his advice for aspiring artists. “Cuando vas a pintar como artista, tu no peudes pensar que nada mas [When you go to paint like an artist, you cannot think about anything else]. Not on money, not on nothing, only your work,” he said. “Yo quiero pintar porque necessito pintar [I want to paint because I need to paint]. If you spend a lot of time in your studio, you are going to be an artist…most important, be sincere. Don’t paint for others—paint for yourself and it will be for everyone.”

After our interview, Bryant, who had shown up midway through, went across the room and with a flourish, placed a little, red circle sticker on one of the painting’s placards to show Hector it had been sold. The latter leaned in and told me it was to go to one of the actors in “Game of Thrones.” He then went over to Bryant (who is tall and skinny), picked him up, and spun him around on his shoulders.

Before I left, Hector insisted I visit Cuba because everyone there is friendly and there are wonderful museums and art. He has two sons, one of whom is an artist, and they both speak English “very well.”

For more information about Bryant Toth Fine Art and Hector Frank, visit this website.

TRENDLAND: HECTOR FRANK: Bridge to Cuba Exhibition [NY]

Written by: CYRIL FOIRET

Bryant Toth Fine Art and Gallery 151 are pleased to present an exhibition of works by Cuba-based artist Hector Frank, from November 3rd – November 10th at 132 West 18th Street New York, NY 10011. An exhibition catalogue with an essay by Jose Manuel Noceda, a celebrated Cuban Art Historian and Critic will be published.

HECTOR FRANK – Bridge to Cuba, is Mr. Frank’s second solo exhibition in Manhattan New York. Following a year of notable success, global exposure, and a nearly sold out exhibition in 2015, we’re honored to share a new collection of his recent work. This show will focus on a series of portraits made from a combination of acrylic & collage on canvas or acrylic and collage on wood. The texture and depth of Mr. Frank’s pieces can been seen through his choice of materials, fluid brush strokes and intricate focus on details.

Bryant Toth Fine Art – Pop-up Gallery and Art Curator specializing in Cuba-based contemporary art. Bryant Toth Fine Art is not only committed to introducing underrepresented Cuban artists to new markets, but also diversify the traditional gallery model through unique pop-up exhibitions in domestic and international markets. Bryant collaborates with a diverse group of Cuban artists whose work is extensive in style and medium. The work truly encompasses the changing Cuban art scene. Bryant Toth Fine Art was created from an appreciation of Cuba, its culture and creative talents.

Exhibition:
opening reception will be held on Thursday, November 3rd from 6pm – 10 pm.
November 3rd – November 10th
132 West 18th Street New York

 

THE NEW YORK TIMES: T MAG - The Man Bringing Contemporary Cuban Art to America

The Man Bringing Contemporary Cuban Art to America

Written by: Carson Griffith

"Long before travel restrictions from the U.S. to Havana were relaxed, Bryant Toth, the former membership manager at New York’s Soho House, had racked up quite a few visits — and a growing collection of contemporary Cuban art. The pieces he brought back sparked immediate interest among his friends, and before he knew it, Toth, 28, was a de facto dealer. “I didn’t have this grand vision,” he explains. “My friends just asked about the artists.” By last fall, demand was so high that Toth left Soho House to work full-time with seven of them, displaying their work mostly on his website and Instagram account, but occasionally in pop-up gallery shows, too: One he mounted at the Hotel Chelsea last November for the painter Hector Frank, a 55-year-old former electrical engineer, nearly sold out. Toth will exhibit the work of Cuban artists including Frank later this year in New York and Los Angeles."