Cuba is full of art so I highly suggest buying some. I love bright colors
so in the art I’ve posted here, that’s what you’ll see. However, there is art for everyone in Cuba. Bright, dark, ominous, whimsical, abstract, ethnic. You will see something you like.
Most of what you’ll find on the street or in stores day to day is indeed handmade but not really one of a kind. I bought a bunch of it though because I liked it. I bought a piece out of someone’s hallway just walking by on the street and also bought about six pieces from a shop in Old Havana at the corner of Obispo and Aguacate. The shop owner there will take euros, I think even dollars.
Then there’s the San Jose market, a HUGE warehouse of vendors on the water’s edge of Old Havana (runs along the Avenida del Puerto, cross street Cuba St.), open daily until like 6 and there are dozens of art vendors in there. Now in there, you can find some original stuff. Not just the paintings of old classic cars you usually find in shops. You can negotiate pretty much everything there also but they will be insulted if you try to go too low. You can also buy clothing, trinkets, jewelry and any other souvenir you want to bring back.
Considering negotiations, I spent btwn 8-20 CUC/USD per art piece (and also got some off of t-shirts and other stuff). Not expensive. I negotiated about 40-50% off, on average (paid 40 euros for originally 75, paid 75 euros for originally 130). I’m sure I could have gotten more but it’s exhausting to haggle. And one vendor was stubborn and absolutely wouldn’t budge on anything. Beware of the “paintings” that are no more than color copies (usually of cars) pressed or glued onto canvas. They’re usually small and cheap. Or you can buy them as souvenirs for people you don’t REALLY wanna buy anything for in the first place.
While I was there (August), on Saturdays and Sundays artists would set up their art for sale all along the Prado (the big main drag that runs down from Parque Central). The most original art was there, with the artists themselves. Stuff out there is not cheap (I had to leave behind something I really loved because it cost almost 200 USD/CUC and I didn’t want to change more money on my last day). But it’s the most original stuff. I’m not sure if that happens year-round since it’s all outside. I don’t think it gets cold in Cuba though so hopefully you’ll get to experience art on the Prado.
As I said, Cuba is full of art. The people haven’t been allowed to do much else in the way of self expression really beside dance and paint. So you can easily bring back hundreds of dollars of it. Ask the artists what the pieces mean if you’re concerned about originality. Or just buy what you like. I have like three pieces of classic cars and I don’t care that they’re not the most authentically Cuban pieces. I just liked them. I also bought several featuring Afro-Cubans, dance and culture. So there’s a balance.
This isn’t so much about art but the small market on Obispo has a variety of souvenir-y things also for good prices. I bought five handmadenecklaces with wooden beads for 1 CUC each and the vendor threw in one for free. They’ll actually really lovely and will make great gifts. That market is open every day except Wednesday.