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Arts & Culture

The Boxer experience

Over 100 works owned by late art scholar up for auction

By RICHARD JOHNSON
Observer senior reporter
johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, April 07, 2019

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A portion of the works of art collected by late art historian and scholar, Dr David Boxer, is set to go on auction come tomorrow.

The event, to be held at Boxer's former residence on Devon Road in St Andrew, is being organised by the trustees of his estate and will feature over one hundred pieces including originals by celebrated local master artists including Carl Abrahams, Christopher Gonzalez, Eugene Hyde, Alexander Cooper, Barrington Watson, Karl Parboosingh, Ralph Campbell, Colin Garland and Edna Manley. The collection also has works by Boxer himself as well as a wide selection of intuitives, that category of Jamaican artists whom he highlighted and promoted heavily during his decades of work.

Trustee David Nunes told the Sunday Observer that the works up for sale represent a small portion of the works collected by Boxer who was a former chief curator of the National Gallery of Jamaica.

“This auction gives the public one last change... a final taste of what David had to offer visually. The property on Devon Road has been sold and this is a chance for local art lovers to acquire pieces. It is a lot of art, over 100, ranging from collages and assemblages to still-life work and some really iconic works of art from some of Jamaica's masters. In keeping with his wishes, a foundation was established to carry on his work. The other trustees and myself, along with the foundation, have drawn these pieces from what is truly a vast collection... so this is just a drop in the bucket. Here are other works in his collection that will not go on sale, but will be exhibited from time to time,” he said.

For Nunes, the Jamaican art scene is that much the richer thanks to the lifelong contribution to research, development and showcasing the work of local artists. He noted that it is Boxer's pioneering work with the Jamaican intuitives that will be his legacy.

“He was the sole pioneer of the idea of the Jamaican intuitive, those artists with no formal training but whose work is of such that it stands up to world-class standards. He stood at the forefront of discussion and discourse on local art history. His work as chief appraiser helped to place Jamaican art and scholarship on the regional and international scene. One only has to look at the recent success of the international travelling exhibition featuring the works of John Dunkley: Neither Night nor Day. It just shows the reach of our art. Dunkley along with Kapo, Edna Manley and Carl Abrahams are integral to what David Boxer showcased. In this sense he was more that just an artist, or art lover, he was an advocate, selflessly giving to make Jamaican art accepted around the world,” Nunes stated.

He said he has no favourites of the collection going under the gavel on Monday, but Nunes could not help mentioning the final lot in catalogue. This triptych delivered in mixed media and created by Boxer in 2013 is estimated to bring between J$1.4 - 1.5 million.

“I really have to mention the work Flotsam and Jetsam because it has special meaning to me. I have known David for the past 21 years and I have heard him speak with passion about it. It really gives you that iconic feel especially because I heard him speak about it so much,” said Nunes.

Tomorrow's event commences at 7:00 pm with renowned curator Gilou Bauer, who has worked on organising the event also serving as auctioneer. Between yesterday and today the estate began selling furniture and other items of art not being put up for auction, and Nunes urged persons interested in acquiring such pieces to stop by.

Boxer joined the National Gallery as director/curator on December 2, 1975, just over a year after the Gallery had opened its doors. His early exhibitions, such as The Intuitive Eye (1979) and Jamaican Art 1922-1982 (1983-85), which he co-curated with Vera Hyatt for the Smithsonian Institution Travelling Exhibition Service, redefined how Jamaican art was understood, here and across the world. Among his major achievements was the development of the National Gallery's collection, which started with 250 paintings and sculptures that were inherited from the Institute of Jamaica in 1974. Today, the collection provides an encyclopaedic overview of Jamaican art from the Taíno to the present, with more than 2,000 works of art.

In August 2016 Boxer was conferred with the Order of Jamaica for his invaluable contribution to the development of intuitive Jamaican art, as well as the creation of a philosophical framework for the appreciation of art in Jamaica.


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