Slow art scene in 2013

BY RICHARD JOHNSON Observer senior reporter johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, January 05, 2014    

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IT was a slow 2013 for the Jamaican art scene compared to the buoyancy experienced the previous year, which saw the staging of the National Biennial, the inaugural International Reggae Poster contest, and a slew of exhibitions and installations related to the 50th anniversary of Jamaica's independence.

Former curator of the Mutual Gallery, Gilou Bauer, notes that last year there were fewer exhibitions, partly due to the closure of the Mutual Gallery in July and the Pegasus Gallery a few months later.

"Although other galleries — Bolivar Gallery, Grosvenor Galleries and The Art Centre — were able to pick up where the closed ones left off, there was reduced exposure of artists and where their works could be exhibited. This, combined with the economic situation, all contributed to the fact that sales, exhibitions and auctions of works of art did not go well in 2013, Bauer said.

She is, however, optimistic that the scene will rebound with time as there are persons still interested in art, willing to buy and there are artists who still want to have their work displayed.

Bauer pointed to the work being done at the National Gallery of Jamaica, particularly the young artists' exhibition as a positive sign for the future.

During 2013, the National Gallery mounted four major exhibitions in addition to the permanent installations. These were the Natural Histories exhibition, Art iT' exhibition, The New Roots exhibition and Explorations II: Religion and Spirituality, which is currently on display.

The second staging of the International Reggae Poster contest did not make it to Jamaica in 2013. Instead, the competition, organised by Jamaican-born artist Michael Thompson and his Greek partner Maria Papaefstathiou, is currently being showcased in

the United States. The exhibit has made stops in Miami, Washington, DC and New York.

Bauer, who has been art co-ordinator at the Sangters International Airport in Montego Bay for the past four years, said she will be intensifying her efforts in that regard during this year.

"There are no real galleries in Montego Bay. Therefore, art remains pretty quiet. It is important for tourists to see what Jamaican artists are doing, so we are putting some plans in place to increase the presence of Jamaican art in Montego Bay. This should roll out during 2014, said Bauer.

In the meantime, the fine arts came up for mention during the annual Musgrave Awards. Self-taught painter Frank Bernal, famous for his documentation of birds of Jamaica, received the Silver Musgrave medal.





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