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Zilia Sánchez

Soy Isla (I Am an Island)


$12 for adults; $10 for students as well as visitors 62 and over; free for visitors 18 and under

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About the Exhibition

The Phillips Collection presents the first museum retrospective of Cuban artist Zilia Sánchez (b. 1926, Havana). This long-overdue exhibition examines the artist’s prolific yet largely unknown career that spans almost 70 years, featuring more than 60 works including paintings, works on paper, shaped canvases, and sculptural pieces, alongside illustrations, design sketches, and ephemera. The exhibition traces Sánchez’s artistic journey from her early days in Cuba to her extended visits to Europe and residence in New York, and finally her move to Puerto Rico, where she now lives and works. Many of Sánchez’s works reference protagonists from ancient mythology (such as Trojans, Amazonians, and Antigone—all warriors and female heroines). Others have reoccurring motifs of lunar shapes, erotic topologies, and tattoo drawings that map physical and psychological spaces and add another dimension to her curvilinear geometry, rich with metaphorical meaning. The exhibition title, I Am an Island,​ serves as a personal metaphor for Sanchez’s experience as an islander—connected to and disconnected from both the mainland and mainstream art currents.

Sobre la exposición

La Colección Phillips presenta la primera retrospectiva museística de la artista cubana Zilia Sánchez (nac. en 1926, en La Habana). Esta exposición tan esperada examina la prolífica, aunque aún muy poco conocida, carrera de la artista. Expandiendo casi 70 años, esta exposición incluye más de 60 obras de pinturas, obras sobre papel, telas estiradas, esculturas, ilustraciones gráficas, recuerdos y objetos de colección. La retrospectiva abarca la trayectoria artística de Sánchez, desde sus inicios en Cuba, sus prolongados viajes a Europa y su residencia en Nueva York, y finalmente su traslado a Puerto Rico, donde ahora vive y trabaja. Sánchez hace a menudo referencia a la narrativa y las protagonistas de la mitología antigua (como las troyanas, las amazonas y Antígona: todas ellas guerreras y heroínas). Otras obras tienen motivos recurrentes de formas lunares, topologías eróticas y dibujos de tatuajes que mapean espacios físicos y psicológicos y añaden otra dimensión a su geometría curvilínea, rica en significado metafórico. El nombre de la exposición, Soy Isla, sirve como una metáfora personal de la experiencia de Sánchez como isleña, conectada y desconectada, a la vez, del continente y de las corrientes de arte convencionales.

Artist’s Documentary

This video was commissioned to accompany the exhibition. Conceived as a poetic, non-linear artist’s documentary, it presents the most recent interview with Zilia Sánchez. It was shot in the spring of 2018 in San Juan and produced by VideoArt Productions with director Martin Huberman and production assistant Edgar Romero. The original score is by pianist George X. Fu.

Special thanks to Beatriz Bolton and the Dosal Family Foundation for their generous support of the project and to Jeremy Ney and Vesela Sretenović for their contributions.

Watch & Listen

Audio Tour

Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Vesela Sretenović introduces the exhibition

The exhibition is organized by The Phillips Collection.

With lead exhibition support and a Curatorial Fellowship from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

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Generous funding is provided by the Diane & Bruce Halle Foundation.

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Additional support is provided by the Ednah Root Foundation, the Marion F. Goldin Charitable Fund, the Lichtenberg Family Foundation, PHILLIPS, and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, which receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts, and from the Frauke and Willem de Looper Charitable Fund.

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The artist documentary on Zilia Sánchez is made possible by Beatriz Bolton and the Dosal Family Foundation.

In-kind support is provided by 

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