SANTA FE, N.M. — Who gets to make art? The question was posed recently on Instagram by Luke Syson, director of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England. In asking it, Mr. Syson was adding his voice to a growing chorus of museum professionals who are challenging traditional hierarchies of art production. He was talking, in this instance, about the obscure craft of scrimshaw, subject of a fine study show at the Fitzwilliam, but more broadly about the importance of recognizing and celebrating those gifted artists whose work is so often relegated to the stepchild status of crafts.
As I stood in a tent on hot July afternoon in this high desert city, I was nagged by Mr. Syson’s question. Planted in sand on three folding tables were the creations of Leandro Gómez Quintero, one of 178 individuals from 52 countries gathered for the 16th annual edition of the influential and popular International Folk Art Market.
Mr. Gómez’s artworks had made the trip to the United States without him since visa restrictions prevented the one-time history teacher based in Baracoa, a small city on the eastern tip of Cuba, from attending. And yet the artist’s presence could be felt in the works he’d sent — eccentric and vaguely obsessional scale models of the vintage vehicles that have come to stand as visual shorthand for Cuba’s anachronistic position on the