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El Rey

Julian Schnabel, Daniel Daza

For the moment, my name is Reinaldo Arenas. The Justice Department has declared me stateless, so legally I don’t exist. I live on the edge of society, in any place in the world.

I’m homosexual, anti-Castro, and I’m not religious.

R. Arenas

Reinaldo Arenas was born in Aguas Claras, Cuba in 1943, he was a novelist, playwright, and poet known for his magic-realism works and his opposition to the dictatorship of Fidel Castro. With the exception of his first book, Celestino Before Alba (1967), all his novels and essays were published outside of Cuba during a period of exile of more than 10 years after being persecuted by Fidel Castro’s government due to his sexual preferences. He finished writing his autobiography, Antes Que Anochezca a few days before committing suicide in New York City in the winter of 1990.

Arena’s autobiography was the starting point for the script of Before Night Falls (2000) a film by American artist and filmmaker Julian Schnabel, which portrays Arena’s life from his childhood in Cuba, the discovery of his homosexuality, his development as writer, the oppression he suffered under Castro’s government, until the exile in the United States and, finally, his own battle against HIV / AIDS.

Due to the restrictions of the Cuban government, most of the production of the film took place in Mexico, using Merida, Progreso and El Puerto de Veracruz, as locations, which simulated different scenarios in Cuba. During the filming of Before Night Falls in Yucatan, Schnabel, together with his family and friends, as well as actors from the film, including Javier Bardem and Johnny Depp, stayed at a mansion owned by the family of the Yucatecan gallerist and collector Manolo Rivero in Itzimna. During his time there, Schnabel made a series of works which were exhibited in an improvised exhibition in the dining room of the house at the end of his stay.

For El Rey, one of the three inaugural exhibitions of SALÓN: the exhibitions program at Salón Gallos, we have attempted to reconstruct that intimate exhibition in 2000 and additionally, include a series of photographs by Mexican photographer Daniel Daza, who worked together with Schnabel documenting the process of the film. Facsimiles of a selection of short stories in the Arena’s autobiography are distributed throughout the space, thus generating a container of different narrative layers of the same story from different moments and points of view, which intertwine and coincide in Reinaldo Arenas.

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