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By: Gervais Marsh

A contemporary art collection located in an upscale urban hotel begs the question of which audience it caters to? In Jamaica, a country deeply segregated by class, the boundaries of what spaces one feels comfortable entering are evidently drawn even if the lines aren’t visible.

In this context, the Beyond Tropical collection is both a bold move, constituting the only other public contemporary art display in the country along with the National Gallery of Jamaica, and an opportunity to interrogate the class structures that shape viewing art. Exhibited throughout the first floor, main lobby and restaurant of the AC Marriott hotel in Jamaica’s capital city, Kingston, the collection is curated by art advisor Susanne Fredricks as an innovative departure from the stereotypical tropes of tropical landscape scenes that populate most hotels in the Caribbean. The hotel draws a strong local presence as a vibrant social venue, allowing for the artwork to be viewed in a more approachable setting than a white cube gallery or museum. Fredricks notes, “The AC is a global brand with a universal design aesthetic, and we wanted to bring Jamaica into the hotel space, situating visitors, both foreign and local, into contemporary visual conversations from the region. I think of the collection as a kind of reclamation of our history, the politics of our being, and the dynamics around gender, place, nationhood, and economy within the culture we have brought to the world.”

Installed outside at the hotel’s entrance, a somber impermanence that often characterizes the conditions of the tropics exudes from “Becoming,” a monumental sculptural piece by Tamara Morin-Harding. The piece is made with the wood of a tamarind tree and continues to deteriorate from weather elements. This mood is sustained through “Black Petals” by Laura Facey, a smooth undulating exterior that leads into textured ridges suffused with an eroticism that emphasizes tactility. An acute attention to materiality emanates in Jag Mehta’s stoneware clay cones that contrasts with David Pinto’s “Pod” and “Waves” sculptures, reminders of the fractal contours found throughout the Caribbean natural environment.

While Jamaica is known globally as a dynamic, at times overdetermined cultural site, there is a scarcity of funding for arts institutions. This has led to a visual art scene with too few spaces for artists to exhibit work. If approached as an ongoing curatorial project, Beyond Tropical can expand the scope of where and how artwork is viewed. Thus far, the growing collection has made several recent acquisitions, including work by Ebony G. Patterson and Kimani Beckford. It also provides recognition for Caribbean contemporary artists outside of Jamaica, with pieces by Rodell Warner from Trinidad and Tobago and Katherine Kennedy from Barbados. Beyond Tropical is a prompt to think creatively about what an exhibition can look like in Jamaica, and a push for the country’s private sector to tangibly support the work of contemporary artists. Regardless, as Ebony G. Patterson’s textile piece “Who is missing” asks, when private companies become more involved in the arts, who gets a seat at the table? As one of the most well known contemporary Jamaican artists, Patterson’s work has long questioned the intimacies of class and violence, reflecting on who becomes marginalized in the imbalances of the country’s socio-cultural constructs.

Cosmo Whyte 'Shotta' & Laura Facey 'Black Petals'

Leasho Johnson 'Sugar Daddy'

Echoing Patterson’s call, artists Cosmo Whyte, Leasho Johnson and Shoshanna Weinberger grapple with the intertwined racial and class dynamics that often dictate spaces like the AC Hotel. Cosmo Whyte’s “Shotta II'' is a central focal point of the collection when entering the lobby, a jarring photo collage that appropriates the character Ivanhoe Martin from the film The Harder They Come, played by singer Jimmy Cliff. Exaggerating Cliff’s black skin tone and red eyes, the figure stares intently at the viewer in a confrontational stance, a gun pointed from each hand, as if to ask, “What is the place of the unruly within this hotel?” Whyte’s work questions the classism that often leads to the tourist/local divide. With a similarly stark image, Leasho Johnson’s “Sugar Daddy” asserts that the hustler will always find a way to make it into spaces not “meant” for him. A semi-abstract figure intertwined in the leaves and stalks of multi-colored sugar cane, Johnson alludes to the colonial histories that continue to shape complicated Jamaican masculinities.

Alongside Whyte’s collage hangs Shoshanna Weinberger’s haunting triptych “Market Fruits”. A heaviness weighs on the three amorphous black masses attached to barbed wire, tightly constricted amongst gold chains that squeeze out drips of black paint. Weinberger wrestles with the intertwined emotional and material violences that plague Black women in what feels like a rendition of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”. Textile artist Katrina Coombs’ woven sculpture “Invasion II” is in dialogue with Weinberger’s piece, exploring the tensions of self and social perception. Her work brings a layered texture to the collection, affirming the role of textiles too often overlooked in Jamaican contemporary art.

Katrina Coombs 'Invasion 2' & Shoshanna Weinberger 'Market Fruits'

One of the most visually striking pieces in the collection is Andre Woolery’s “Sound Wall” which harnesses a glittering shine to pull viewers into a hypnotic aestheticizing of sound system speakers. Through his intricate use of pushpins, a fairly affordable material, Woolery highlights the rich contribution of sound systems as a Jamaican art practice while recognizing its development primarily by working class communities. The glimmer of the “Sound Wall” and its embrace of technology resonate with Taj Francis’ Afrofuturist digital paintings “Masquerade” and “Numbers”. With blue skin and adorned in gold, each figure gazes outward towards other worlds yet to be built.

Laura Facey 'Tines,' 'Spirit Dancer' & Andre Woolery, 'Sound Wall'

The otherworldly quality of Francis’ work fosters a connection with Rodell Warner’s digital self-portrait “Your Wilderness”. One of two videos in the collection, Warner’s piece engenders introspection, with patterns of nature surfacing from within the figure. Katherine Kennedy’s kaleidoscope of vibrantly colored seashells loops with Warner’s video, both providing moments to meditate on interior emotional worlds.

How does Beyond Tropical contribute to the contemporary Jamaican arts scene and greater societal support for artists? Will it shift how contemporary art is engaged and valued locally or reproduce the same class siloing that excludes many from the art world? One response is Kimani Beckford’s painting “After the New Norm” which considers the difficult global realities we must now navigate due to the ongoing pandemic. Another lies in Laura Facey’s monumental sculpture “Tines” which shifts the viewer's orientation of the space as it extends over 12 feet towards the ceiling. Embodying a forward movement in its walking gesture, the sculpture signals possibility, aptly capturing the potential of this collection to expand what can be imagined.


The Caribbean, Seen

Armory week 2021 in New York has been quite the whirlwind. I was invited by the Armory Show to be a panelist on the Armory ‘Live’ programme, “Collecting Caribbean Art: Connoisseurship and Impact’, moderated brilliantly by Tiana Webb Evans, founder and Director of the recently launched Jamaica Art Society, with fellow panelists art advisor Gardy St Fleur and collector Kenneth Montague. The talk attracted a great crowd, predominantly Caribbean, and spoke to the growing interest in the region’s contemporary art scene from a collector’s perspective. We discussed why and how we collect, what influences our focus, the various roles we each play in the arts ecosystem and the impact and importance of that work, and to the urgent need for more collectors within the region and the Diaspora. It was a real joy to engage with Gardy, Kenneth and Tiana, and to feel connection and community in the space.

And for the first time on my art fair jaunts of recent years, I couldn’t keep up with the sheer volume of artists from and of the region present in New York. As the international interest in the Caribbean as a 'new' space for contemporary art, by galleries, curators and collectors alike, continues to rise, it was exciting to see the gravity of this kind of momentum. Our artists are forging ahead in the international market despite the many challenges they face in their homelands, and huge kudos to them all for journeying forward so strongly. The undercurrent for me was the usual anxiety that our region is ‘missing the boat’ in terms of our cultural and artistic production and material visual culture.

That concern aside, perhaps for another conversation, I will focus on the energy of the momentum! Not only were our Jamaican stars on show at the main fair, the Armory show; Ebony G Patterson with Hales gallery, and Cosmo Whyte with Anat Egbi, (who are also scheduled to open Christopher Udemezue’s (USA/ Jamaica/ Nigeria) solo show September 25th in LA), but Leasho Johnson had several works with new Bahamian gallery, Tern, at Future Fair, and Jodie Lee-Kee-Chow in the spectacularly curated Spring/Break Fair. The Jamaican diaspora was also well represented, with Kim Dacres at Gavlak (her solo show in LA, ‘Wisdom Embedded in the Treads’, open now) and Anique Jordan at PatelBrown, both at Armory, with the latter being included in the ‘Presents’ section for younger galleries. Central to the Armory's install was a huge soft sculptural work by Tau Lewis (Canada/ Jamaica) with Night gallery, perhaps the most instagrammed work of the Fair.

Click images to view

In terms of the wider region, the trailblazing gallerist Marianne Ibrahim had several stunning works by artists of Caribbean heritage included in her booth. An exciting new discovery, Shannon T Lewis (Germany/Trinidad and Tobago), (included in their Paris gallery's inaugural exhibition ‘J’ai Deux Amours’’ which opened on September 18th) and also works by long-term represented artists Clotilde Jimenez (USA/Puerto Rico), M. Florine Démosthéne (USA/Haiti) , and Rafael Barontini (France/Martinique).

Other artists from the region were also holding strong ground throughout the fair: Denzil Forrester (UK/Grenada) at Stephen Friedman, Didier Williams' (USA/Haiti) solo presentation with James Fuentes, (included in Artsy’s ‘Best 10 Booths at Armory’ article), April Bey (Bahamas/USA) at Gavlak, Suchitra Mattai (USA/Guyana) and Manuel Mathieu (USA/Haiti) with Kavi Gupta, Curtis ‘Talwst” Santiago (Canada/TT) with Rachel Uffner, Bony Ramirez's (USA/DR) solo presentation with Thierry Goldberg, Yoan Capote (USA/Cuba) with Ben Brown, Vicki Pierre (USA/Haiti) with Fredrik Schnitzer, Marielle Plaisir (USA/Haiti) with London based gallery TAFETA, Allana Clarke at Housing (USA/Trinidad) and Nate Lewis (USA/Barbados) with Fridman.

In two satellite Fairs, Che Lovelace (TT) starred with a solo presentation with Various Small Fires at Independent Fair, and Rodell Warner (USA/TT) and Drew Leech (Bahamas) with Tern at Future Fair.

Two solo exhibitions also opened in Chelsea this week: Michaela Yearwood Dan (UK/Barbados/Grenada), titled 'Be Gentle with Me’, at Marianne Boesky, and Alvaro Barrington (USA/Venezuela/Grenada), who took the art community by storm by opening at three NYC locations almost simultaneously- with Nicola Vassel gallery in Chelsea - ‘Garvey 1- The Quiet Storm’, with Kyla George of St George projects in Brooklyn ‘Wave your Flags, and joint show ‘The Lot Show' with Teresa Farrell, organised by Mendes Wood and Blum and Poe.

Two Caribbean artists were also very visible in public commissioned projects. Shoshanna Weinberger (USA/Jamaica) finalised her public mural in Newark, New Jersey, 'Rising Up', commissioned by Four Corners Public Arts, and Joiri Minyana (USA/DR), as artist in residence at New Wave, has several works installed in Riverside Park Conservancy as part of a wider project.


Updated: Nov 19, 2018

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As the sands have shifted in the Caribbean art world, so has my work. Over the past 15 years I've worn several hats. I’ve managed a gallery, driven innovative exhibition programmes, curated and implemented successful art auctions, worked with corporate and private collections, and corporate art programmes. I also deal in the secondary art market, and work closely with emerging contemporary artists developing markets for their work.

With the emergence of social media and the regional and global access that brings to the local, there has been a growing sense of connection between, and cohesion of, visual culture from and of the Caribbean. This increase in access has allowed space for more partnership, exchange, collaboration, funding development and a growing sense of regionality in our art communities. There has also been a steady development of very tangible and extremely valuable work in art publications, art spaces, conferences, exhibitions, residencies and scholarship. Its a promising and exciting time for contemporary visual culture in the Caribbean and although we all still face various challenges, the work continues to develop very much in response to the needs of the region’s art community.

Is wha' Suzie a gwaan wid?

My site Suzie Wong Presents, ‘The Caribbean, Seen’ (SWP) will be focussed on developing emerging contemporary artists’ careers in current and new markets. I will be prioritising the presence and work of artists of the Global Caribbean by increasing their visibility and creating a sense of cohesion of the contemporary visual culture. The aim is to reach new audiences, and create and facilitate new opportunities for artists by way of cultivating a wider collector base, curator interest, exhibition opportunities, Global North gallery representation, and residency programmes. By innovating a new way of ‘seeing’ the Caribbean for diverse audiences beyond our shores and advocating for artists in regional and international spaces and markets we will pioneer a new presence.

The online platform offers:

  • access to available works and activity by exciting emerging contemporary artists in the Global Caribbean;

  • a commercial gallery space for the secondary art market, predominantly Jamaican;

  • a platform for the viewing and development of the Suzie Wong Collection;

  • highlights of residencies, projects, exhibitions, conferences and art events throughout the region;

  • a bi-annual Newsletter streamlining all SWP news and updates on regional activity and resources.

The Suzie Wong Summertime 2018

SWP is now active and live on Artsy! Artsy is a global art market platform with the most effective user algorithm, and so is the most commercially successful art collector site in the global market.

This partnership will be key in positioning SWP’s work in a huge network of galleries, and to a diverse and expansive collector base. We are thrilled to be one of only two Caribbean based art initiatives currently present on Artsy.

Please visit our page and follow either us, or specific artists for new works notifications and event information.

Leasho Johnson’s ‘New Works 2018’

Leasho's catalogue of 'New Works' was housed online at pre launch SWP in May 2018, and was a huge success. We are both very happy with the outcome, and this has given even more impetus to SWP's development of its mission. Leasho is now happily ensconced at SAIC in Chicago in his Post Grad Degree.

To view Leasho's new Works catalogue please email:

‘Required Reading’ @1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, London

SWP partnered with UK’s non-profit 198 CAL in October 2018, for 1:54’s Special Projects programme with 'Required Reading', a showcasing of work by two Jamaican artists, Leasho Johnson and Monique Gilpin. Both artists engage with issues of identity, particularly as they relate to the Black body - its' objectification, its wounds, its power and the unrelenting tensions of navigating identity in a post plantation society and economy. The digital work produced draws on the work of Jamaican-born cultural theorist Stuart Hall and his investigation into the processes of identity location in 'being' and 'becoming', and how these dynamics work in contemporary Jamaica’s visual culture. 

This was the first Jamaican presence at 1:54, SWP's first international partnership with 198 CAL, and SWP's first foray into the Art Fair world. Our project was well received by many and has sparked new conversations and opportunities. We would like to thank 1:54 for the opportunity and all who supported us!

So to the future!! We continue the work and the site is soon set to launch. Projects are underway behind the scenes, and we’d love to have your support.

Subscribe to for updates and news!!

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