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Jamaica Art Market Review | October 2023

Lot 51. Dawn Scott (1951-2010) Woman (1995), the jewel of the WARE Collective 2023 Virtual Art Auction. The USD375 reserve for this 23" x 29" batik was quickly surpassed in a three-way of 26 successive offers ultimately succumbing to a USD2,000 phone bid.

What makes for a successful art auction fundraiser? A good cause? An exciting selection of works? Low estimates? All of that, yes. But, because auctions can be very long events, what is also important is stamina. The Wattle and Red Earth (WARE) Collective’s 2023 Virtual Art Auction held on October 15th, was a four hour long engagement with over 78 lots, 32 of which were knocked down at an average of just shy of USD 500 per lot. After expenses WARE might not have realized their financial goal, but the effort will count much towards the development of the ‘Living Museum of Jamaican Heritage’ in Southfield, St Elizabeth.

First on the block, Marie Baillie's Untitled (2022) photograph quickly sold at its USD 265 reserve, but it was Lot 12, Aretha Facey-Dennis' stoneware mask

Photosynthesis (2023), that provoked the first real frisson of the evening, receiving five bids before being hammered down at USD 380.

David Pinto's stoneware Sculpted Vases, (2023) were quickly picked up at USD 310 and USD 200. Trevor Figueroa's Blue Stance #1 and #2 (2023) saw the auctioneer losing control of the incremental bidding to two determined paddlers who finally settled on USD 250 and USD 360 for the painted steel fruit bowls.

Yes, there was anarchy: WARE's video techs tried to re-insert an earlier passed-in lot, and paddlers waited too long to give in to desires, but the auctioneer Douglas Reid of Grosvenor Gallery, skillfully reigned them in, talking through the rules of engagement, promising sweetly to return to them in exchange for us keeping up the order and pace of the show. By the time Mazola Wa Mwashighadi's, mixed media Sugared Tea (2020) returned and sold for USD 500, and Lennox Coke's Resting Boat at USD 265, a satisfied obedience had settled in the zoom.

Auctions are concupiscent. It showed when woodcut prints by Vernal Reuben (1923-2005) entitled Woman (1974) and Masks (1981) both with USD 525 reserves, were offered. Two paddlers started bidding while Reid tried valiantly to describe the lots. "Let me interrupt myself," he said, before taking control of the race which saw both lots finally going to one bidder for USD 950 and USD 650 respectively. Reid is truly in his element when the racing begins: patient, knowledgeable, never forgetting why we’re in the zoom; earning OMGs, thank yous, well dones and eyes-wide-open emojis of delight in the chat.

"This is fun," said Reid , "and life is about fun." And auctions are about bids. Auction results are one of the few public indicators of the market, particularly given its opaque nature. While there were far less participants and works sold at this year's auction compared to the 2021 auction, it only takes two people to get good results. One paddler came away with nine of the lots up for sale. We estimate a slight increase from the USD 15,000 raised during the inaugural (2021) event, but given the 2023's targeted goal of USD 25,000, we see a market that is holding back.

A 1992 watercolour Landscape by master painter Barrington Watson (1931 – 2016) was picked up for USD 1,100. Lower than what has obtained for even his studies at past auctions, but still one of the top three works to sell significantly above its reserve. We were delighted to see works on paper by sculptor Raymond Watson, who has been working and selling quietly in the primary market for the last few years. Sentinel (2008) — which was shown at his most recent exhibition "The Journey Continues II", held in May of this year at Creativspace — and Rest (pictured above right) sold at their USD 600 and USD 520 reserves respectively. The art sale ended with Donnette Zacca's digital photograph The View going for its USD 600 reserve price (see image below).

Works that failed to attract bids included five acrylic paintings by Ken Abendana Spencer (1929-2005). During his lifetime, Spencer, was popular and highly prolific in his output, but now with finite inventory, and even after Ried opened bids on the works below their reserve prices, collectors demurred. Spencer's relative, a son we understand, is also a painter. He reminds of his father greatly, particularly his signature. We admit that seeing a 2008 Ken Abendana Spencer, is a haunting experience; do we sense correctly that this association might cause some confusion amongst collectors?

Visit the digital catalogue as soon as you can, to see all the lots offered, including the below by Donnette Zacca, Bernard Hoyes, Ewan McAnuff, Judith Salmon, George Rodney and Norma Harrack. Remaining lots can be had at the post auction sale which continues through November 15th, 2023.


Jacqueline Bishop (above left) is capturing significant international attention, exhibition and acquisition of her series of porcelain dinner plates History at the Dinner Table, her oval plates depicting The Market Woman Story, and her Keeper of All the Secrets tea service. The powerful histories she tells in her work can be read here. National honours were conferred upon Roxanne Marie Silent, who was awarded the Badge of Honour for 30 years of Meritorious Service to the National Gallery of Jamaica, and on Diana Fredricks of HiQo Art and Framing, who was awarded the Order of Distinction, Officer Class for her contribution to the development of the business of art and artists in Jamaica. Prime Minister Andrew Holness has appointed Jamaican-born, UK-based art collector, arts philanthropist and businesswoman Theresa Roberts as Ambassador/ Special Investment Envoy for Culture and Arts who will play a pivotal role in attracting investment and driving economic growth in Jamaica.

There's a great little story about two young artists, Romar Wilmot and Jason Hall, who collaborated on a huge 10' painting of the American artiste, Chris Brown. The work was was seven years in planning, but they "...only began working on it in January of this year. Just as we were nearing completion, we learned through THE STAR news that he was coming to Jamaica. It felt like destiny, and we're incredibly grateful for it." The artists received a shout out from Brown on social media and were able to speak to Brown's mother, who loved it.


We bring to your attention two works by Carl Abrahams stolen from a Kingston home in September 2023 should they appear for sale or are seen in any homes, shops, galleries, auctions or exhibitions.


Lois Lake Sherwood (1932-2023)

We acknowledge the passing of Lois Lake Sherwood, and are comforted by the memories of her warm greetings, indomitable energy, the tales behind her outrageous baubles brought back from heroic journeys to exotic places, and her generosity as a member of the board of the National Gallery.

The NGJ's tribute can be read here.

Image by Donnette Ingrid Zacca

Michael Campbell (1941-2023)

Founder and former managing director of the venerable Island Car Rentals, Michael Campbell's passion for commerce and business was outweighed only by his appreciation for Jamaican art. In an unmatched philanthropic gesture orchestrated by Patron the Most Hon P J Patterson, he gifted his formidable collection to the Mona campus in 2023, The UWI's 75th anniversary year.

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The JAMAICA ART MARKET REVIEW: An aggregate and liberal borrowing (for educational purposes only) of what caught our eye since our last review. All content has been prepared using publicly available information with or without examining the actual works. artephemera®com has no vested interest in any art assets that appear herein. If you wish to add resources to this site, or if you own the copyright for any of the material on ts website and do not consent to its use herein, please contact us.

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