The Caribbean’s First Contemporary Art Museum Opens in Jamaica
The space aims to bring an international outlook to the islands.
Jamaica’s first non-governmental organization for arts and culture, and the Caribbean’s first exhibition space dedicated entirely to contemporary art, opens today in Kingston with an exhibition of works by Jean-Michel Basquiat.
The museum—called space caribbean, is located on the historic Henzell family estate—the former home of filmmaker Perry Henzell—which was delicately renovated by David Adjaye. The renowned architect kept much of the house’s original features, including the frame and tiling, which he offset by stylish outdoor pavilions.
Titled “I Feel Like a Citizen,” the opening Basquiat exhibition presents 30 works and documents examining the Haitian-American artist’s Afro-Caribbean heritage in his work.
The project is the brainchild of Rachael Barrett, a 33-year-old Jamaican-born art advisor from London. In 2013, she relocated to Kingston with the aim of bringing “a minimum of five to six” contemporary art spaces to the Caribbean islands, the Art Newspaper reports.
Although government-backed art institutions exist in Jamaica, they tend to exclusively showcase emerging local artists. Consequently, the island lacks an international outlook and discourse with contemporary art, something Barrett hopes to change. She intends to shape her program “loosely like a contemporary art 101,” she told the Wall Street Journal.
Barrett’s primary aim is to educate and provide access to contemporary art. “What I’d love to see is a child of eight now growing up knowing they can always pass by a gallery on the weekend and walk in and sit there,” she said. “That the space and the work are theirs to experience.”
To achieve her objective, Barrett recruited the educator and anthropologist Muna Lobé to shape the institution’s educational program. The organization formed partnerships with 27 local schools and has devised a program of free lectures, workshops, and talks. She also enlisted high-profile board members including the artist Hank Willis Thomas and collector Francesca von Habsburg.
Barrett hopes to open her next Caribbean contemporary art space in Trinidad.
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