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Jamaica Art Market Review (May 2018)

AGORA --- It may be an indication of things to come that Melinda Brown was back on the rock. For Brown, an Australian native - had the reputation of making the unheard of become material and for showing us things we never knew we wanted. Some will recall her uptown-meets-downtown studio and salon at the corner Church and Barry Streets which she established after moving here from the Bambora House in New York, NY. Most will remember her Pechon Street ROKTOWA project which explored various programming: exhibitions, residencies, art-making, wellness and education until it all became untenable.

Brown returned to Jamaica to open the exhibition of sculpture by Laura Facey at Harmony Hall (March - May 2018) and lit the audience with her timely exhortation on the symbolic value of buying art. The full expression of her remarks can be read here, or you can view Pan Media's video below.

Facey and Brown met in 2005, introduced by then NGJ Director, Jonathan Greenland and Director of the Institute of Jamaica, Vivian Crawford. Working with Brown as curator, Facey conceived The Everything Doors (2006) exhibition at the IoJ and produced a body of critically and commercially acclaimed work. It was the beginning of many collaborations, culminating in Radiant Earth, Facey’s first solo show in London in October 2013. The centrepiece of it all, Their Spirits Gone Before Them (2006) was awarded the UNESCO Slave Route Project logo in 2013 and went on to show at the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool in 2014.

Facey's most recent showing was at the 2016/2017 National Gallery of Jamaica Biennial and the last two years saw her focused on her Fusion of Food, Art and Goodwill events. Now that Facey is back in studio and procuring wood for new work, Brown in back in town, (and coincidentally Greenland and Crawford are back in their 2005 positions) new wonders may indeed lay ahead.



Forty-two donated works by prominent artists with close ties to the Studio Museum in Harlem were offered at Sotheby’s New York Contemporary Art auctions in May. Creating Space: Artists for The Studio Museum in Harlem: An Auction to Benefit the Museum’s New Building, was part of the campaign to raise funds for the institution. The auction catalogue is available for download and more information on the participating artists can be read here.

Five works by Mark Bradford, Julie Mehretu, Glenn Ligon, Njideka Akunyili Crosby and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye raised 80 percent (US$16.4 million) of the US$20.2 million two day total. The additional 37 works brought the remaining proceeds and included a record sale for Jamaica's own Nari Ward's work Casio Black (see image below).

Nari Ward, Casio Black, 2017. U.S. currency edges, acrylic paint, indelible ink, over-proof white rum, and used cash register drawers on wood panel, 68.75 x 56.75 x 4.5 inches.

Estimate US$40,000-$60,000.

Sold for US$175,000 including fees (RECORD)

Sotheby's, New York. May 17, 2018



“The import of (the purchase), I think, is missed on a lot of people. I don’t know if a lot of people recognize what that really represents: this is probably the first instance in the history of the art world where a black person competed in a capital competition and won.”

--- Kerry James Marshall

"Black" art is sizzling hot in the American contemporary art market. Thrust into the popular culture with the 1980s auction episode of the Cosby Show, data analysis shows a rising market for Black artists since 2008 coinciding with:

  • Swann Auction Galleries' 2007 establishment of an African-American Fine Art department;

  • American president, Barack Obama's term in office;

  • the Obama's selection of Black contemporary works for the White House;

  • greater levels of visibility of Black artists in art schools;

  • artists' use of technology to promote, control and distribute their art;

  • a globalized art world creating more international venues for exposure;

  • a new level of Black wealth and access to the larger art world;

  • a Black art market ecosystem of artists, "gallerists", curators, and culture workers; and

  • critical scholarship, institutional attention, and sales for under-represented artists.

The last peak in sales was 2011. The market reset in 2012, after which, it rose steadily until leaping dramatically in 2015 with a 60% rise in auction volume from 2014 to 2015. The 2017 sale of Jean-Michel Basquiat's Untitled (1982) for US$110.5 million set a new auction high for a work by an American artist and further re-calibrated the market for African-American artists.

Concerns that the high market value of paintings result from the trendy commercialization of Black culture are tempered with the sustained symbolic value accorded to them by historians, critics and curators which secures its ultimate legitimacy.

Other signs that interest in Black fine art continues to be robust are indicated in Swann's annual auction results report; from Sotheby’s who will be holding valuation days in Lagos, Nigeria, ahead of the October 2018 auction of Modern and Contemporary African Art; and Christie's who has noticed an increase in demand from new buyers and has issued a new Collecting Guide: Cuban Modern and Contemporary art.

Bloomberg breaks it down; you can read it here.

Richmond Barthe (1901 - 1989) The Awakening of Africa (Africa Awakening), 1959 Cast bronze, 15x28x8 inches.

Barthé made this bronze figure in Jamaica where he lived from 1949 to 1969.

Estimate US$50,000 - 75,000

Sold for US$87,500

Lot 39: African-American Fine Art

Swann's, New York. October 2017

Hurvin Anderson, Some People (Welcome Series), 2004, oil on canvas, 59 x 91 3/8 inches

British-born Anderson's roots are in Jamaica. Last year he was shortlisted for the Turner Prize.

Estimate US$832,560-$1,110,080

Hammer Price US$1,427,840

Sold for US$1,179,460 including fees

Lot 11: Contemporary Art Evening Auction

Sotheby's, London. March 2018

Kerry James Marshall, Past Times, 1997. acrylic and collage on unstretched canvas

Estimate US$8 million-$12 million.

Hammer price US$18.5 million

Sold for US$21.1 million including fees (RECORD)

Sold to Sean Combs

Lot 5A: Contemporary Art Evening Auction

Sotheby's, New York. May 2018

Kerry James Marshall's Past Time (see above) was previously owned by the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority in Chicago, Illinois. MEPA opted to sell the painting (which it paid US$25,000 for in 1997 with public money using project-expansion bonds after a routine collection review indicated that the work had appreciated significantly and needed to be displayed in a more secure environment than they could provide.

* Sources: Blake Gopnik; artnet; Art Market Monitor; Bloomberg; Culture Type; New York Times; Wall Street Journal.



JIS/JAMAICA OBSERVER---The National Library of Jamaica (NLJ) travelling exhibition (May 23 to October 15) marks the 70th anniversary of the Empire Windrush's historic voyage to England in 1948 and will feature the cultures of nationals from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and other islands who made the historic journey from the Caribbean to England.

It will be showcased throughout Jamaica's public library network and will also be displayed on the websites of the British Library, the national library of the United Kingdom; and Black Cultural Archives, which is dedicated to recording, preserving and celebrating the history of people of African descent in Britain.

“Caribbean nationals were visionaries and artists whose music, art and social contributions are aspects of pride coming out of the Windrush generation. The intention of the National Library is to reach audiences who have been impacted by this momentous journey made in 1948.”

Edouard Duval-Carrié Capitaine Tonnere’, 2017 Mixed Media on Aluminum, 60 x 48 inches,

Image above from the “The Art of Haiti: Loas, History, and Memory” presented at The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College in collaboration with the Centre d’Art in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, (February-May 2018). Curated by Dr. Anthony Bogues (University of the West Indies and Brown University) the exhibition explored the contemporary significance of Haitian art through paintings and new works by some of Haiti’s major 20th century artists and challenged commonly held ideas about Haiti as a site of exotic strangeness within the Americas. Click on image to see slideshow.

Sixty works from 24 artists offering a view of centuries of history of Louisiana were on show in May at the Stella Jones Gallery.

The title of the show is actually Made in Louisiana with the "in" scratched out to signify that these works reflect local sensibilities even if the artists are based elsewhere.

"Related history turns up in Jamaican painter Patrick Waldemar's portrait of the legendary Voodoo priestess (left) Marie Laveau, acrylic/mixed media on canvas, 24x30” whose husband, Jacques Paris, was a Haitian carpenter who fled his homeland's protracted turmoil."

View the show by clicking here or on the image at left.



Deborah Carroll Anzinger was selected for the Artist's Voice feature of Caribbean Quarterly's Volume 64, 2018 Issue 1 which is dedicated to climate change and education. Caribbean Quarterly (since 1949), is the flagship journal of culture of the University of the West Indies and is edited by Nicole Smythe-Johnson. Paralleling the feature articles, Anzinger's essay and artwork explores the relationship between human society and nature, as both material and content. Click on the cover image to access to the publication.

(Left) Journal cover image of Anzinger's Black, shriveled and full of presence, 2016 Acrylic on ceramic, live Aloe Vera, 2016.

Olympia Gallery continues to enhance their on-line presence, this time with a YouTube video on how to query a work of art. Visit their channel to watch that and other tutorials, see products they carry and video of past exhibitions.

Sasha Dees provides a Mondriaan Fund-ed travelogue of her trip to Jamaica where she researched "the sustainability of contemporary art practices and the influence of international (exchange) projects, funding, markets and politics". The introductory and institution and artist reports are linked to herein.

Andrea Chung, whose cyanotypes consider the effect of colonialism on Trinidad, Mauritius and Jamaica (her family home), is the subject of a new documentary which asks if an artist's practice or work is changed by motherhood. “Everyone thinks I have this fancy photo lab.…I take the prints and develop and process them in the kiddie pool and then just leave them on my porch to dry.” Still (left) from “Artist and Mother”; view online or read more here.



Kristina Newman-Scott, has been selected for the Americans for the Arts, Selina Roberts Ottum Award. Newman-Scott is the first immigrant and first woman of color to serve as the Director of Culture and State Historic Preservation Officer for the State of Connecticut, where she oversees the state’s economic and community development grant-making, programs and services related to art, culture, and historic preservation, and deploys strategies to transform environments into vibrant and sustainable communities.



Albert Artwell (1942-2018). Established intuitive painter whose works illustrated his Rastafari faith and scenes from the Scriptures. Artwell exhibited in Jamaica and internationally: World Naive Exhibition, Hamilton's, London (1979); Smithsonian Institute's Traveling Exhibition (1983); Waggoner Gallery, Chicago (1984); and Suti Gallery, Switzerland (1985) Read the New York Times article on Jamaica's intuitives. (Photo at left from Harmony Hall social media.)

Condolences to the family of American artist Barkley L. Hendricks (1945-2018). Especially known for his life-size realist portraits which inspired the likes of Kehinde Wiley, Mickalene Thomas and our own Kimani Beckford. Jamaica was a special healing place for Hendricks: he and his wife spent every winter here since 1982 - a change of scenery that inspired his photography and generated new portrait subjects (see below left) and landscapes; and provided solace here after the 1999 murder of his brother Dwight. There is much to read on Barkley Hendricks; including this and this article.




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