- Art dealer Bryant Toth opened a New York gallery to bring wider public exposure to Cuban artists.
- Promoting Cuban artists means taking on distinct challenges, such as their difficulty getting a hold of premium paint and other materials.
- Toth also believes in defying the cooler vibe of many art galleries by using music and other means to capture the warmth of Cuban culture.
Bryant Toth is bringing Cuban culture to New York one artist at a time. Inspired by regular trips to the Caribbean country, the 31-year-old painter turned art dealer saw an opportunity to showcase the island's abundant artistic talent more globally and opened Toth Gallery on New York's Lower East Side, where he hosts solo and group exhibitions.
Each artist's work is distinct, but there's at least one common thread: "It's truly Cuban, and that's because of their circumstances, because of their upbringing," Toth told CBS MoneyWatch. "Because its culture has been the jewel of the Caribbean, all the work is so dynamic and deep," he added.
He has long represented Havana-based artist Hector Frank, whose portraits incorporate found objects and materials and hang in the homes of important collectors around the world. "His work is imbued with Cuban history," Toth said.
"Extra suitcases, extra paints"
This kind of exposure is unprecedented for Frank, whose first solo show in New York Toth hosted in 2015. But Toth's mission is greater than widening public exposure of Cuban artists -- he also wants to help them produce even higher quality work. For instance, Cuban artists lack access to premium materials.
"The struggle for the artist is always getting the highest grade materials. Most of the paints that the artists use in Cuba are not of the quality they want. So on these 30 trips over the past 10 years, it's always extra suitcases, extra paints, because we're pushing these artists to produce the best work they possibly can," he said.
Toth eschews the traditional "white box" aesthetics that characterize so many art galleries. He wants the setting and experience to be an extension of the art and to reflect Cuban culture. That means creating a sense of warmth and vibrance, versus the typically more sterile gallery setting, by featuring live music and cocktails that complement the artwork.
"We want to let the next generation of collectors really feel the art and understand where they're coming from," Toth said. "That's really the kind of move that is happening in the art world more and more."
Toth Gallery is located in Manhattan at 195 Chrystie St. and is open 12-6 Wednesday through Sunday. Follow Toth Gallery on Instagram @TOTHGALLERY.