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.
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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.