In an article that of course had to be called ‘Island Life‘ (people seem to forget that Britain is made of islands too!?), Frieze published a brilliant article about the fast-growing contemporary art scene in the Caribbean. I’m more than happy to say that some of the names were familiar to me and I was proud to see Bahamians doing so well and speaking so articulately about the nature of contemporary art in the Bahamas and the Caribbean at large – especially given that the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas (NAGB) has been dubbed one of the best (if not the best?) gallery to visit in the Caribbean. In a place that is built on tourism in many ways, it’s interesting to see how there may be a sort of art-tourism developing in the Bahamas over the next 20 years or so – an idea that artist Kendal Hanna voiced not too long ago.
Amanda Coulson in particular talks about the difficulty for an art-historian and curator trying to find work in the Bahamas years ago, and now she is the director of the NAGB! It just reiterates that problems of access aren’t just problems that Others have in the West, but also in their home-countries from lack of opportunity. I think the thing that is making the Bahamas such a forerunner for contemporary art in the Caribbean is the fact that, in this lack of opportunities for artists, people are making their own opportunities. Not unlike Fresh Milk Gallery in Barbados and Alice Yard in Trinidad, there are a number of artist-led spaces popping up all over the Caribbean and doing successfully with several artist residency’s and exhibitions a year, but the Bahamas seems to be getting the biggest saturation of them in one spot. Liquid Courage, Doongalik, Popop Studios, Hillside House…. They’re cropping up everywhere!
And by everywhere, I mean the capital, Nassau… because things can’t be entirely perfect yet! As much as I long for a long-standing contemporary art space in Grand Bahama, chances are that if I wait it won’t happen for a while, and that I may just have to do things myself (easier said than done!). The possibility of a NAGB-GB, that is, National Art Gallery of the Bahamas – Grand Bahama, makes my heart sing, but securing funding is even more difficult in the Bahamas than it is for artists in England.
Still, all things aside, the article is DEFINITELY worth a read and its encouraging to see the Caribbean being put on the global stage of art and talked about… the signs of big things to come!