Small Island Art
Potential Untapped
Susan Mains
IXth Interdisciplinary Congress of the Society for Caribbean
Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology,
University of Vienna Austria., December1-4 2005
Copyright Susan Mains 2005 Do not reproduce without express permission
Caribbean Art by Veerle Poupeye
St. Vincent
Antigua, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Grenada
•Style of Government
•Political Associations
Definition of Contemporary Art
Art that benefits from Institutional Support
Exhibition—National International
Critical Discourse--
Art that reflects the here and now, regardless of its
positioning in the western political art hierarchy
•Limited Art Education
•Art Considered a subject for low ability students
•Material resources limited or non-existent
•Not endowed with national appreciation for art—no
monuments or art in public places
•No Art Schools
•No Museums
•Artist themselves stereotyped as “crazy people”
•Natural disasters disrupt life and work
Steps to “Success”
•Independent Work
•Art Fair
•Collected by Important Collector
•Collected by International Museum
Validation Process
It is a seal of approval from the world of art on their
creative process.
The documentation of the art and the artist leaves a
legacy for generations who follow.
It has the potential to shape a national consciousness
for their country.
More Barriers
•Misconceptions of Caribbean Art
•Only Naïve or Intuitive
•“Haitian” label given to all
•Even Islands with Institutional structures suffer
•Tensions because of “Expatriate” artists
First World Gallery
•Casual Buyer—Nice picture for above the sofa—must match
•Art is an investment
•Researches the Artist
•Who else has bought his work
•Where has he been exhibited
•Will the work hold its value
•Will the artist continue to produce
This conscious behaviour not seen in buyers of Caribbean Art
•“Caribbean” label causes consumer to stereotype the work
•Lack of Documentation of work
•Too few Caribbean art writers and critics
•Expensive for artists to hire freelance writers
Work of the Caribbean has not been
embraced by the mainstream at international
art fairs, so no precedent for the value of the
195 Galleries from 30 countries
Art Basel Miami Gallery Distribution
Europe, 49
Canada, 41
America, 7
And one gallery from the African Continent
Art Miami 2006
Diaspora Vibe Gallery included on the strength of its
The Escape
•Galleries bow to the popular so they can
•Artist turn their backs on their identity
•Everyone loses
Steve McQueen wins Turner Prize 1999
I don't feel a part of it at all.
I don't feel a part of it at all.
I don't feel a part of it at all.
I don't feel a part of it at all.
I don't feel a part of it at all.
I don't feel a part of it at all.
Latin Success
•Government and Institutional Support for Artists
•Art a part of the school curriculum
•Years of documentation
•Islands have benefited by association with larger
Art Auction at Christy’s November 2005
Fernando Botero
Junta Militar
1973 Oil on canvas. 92 x 76.1/2 in.
Expected $750,000-950,000
Rufino Tamayo,
Girl with Yellow Flowers (Muchacha
con flores). 1946, Oil on canvas.
44 x 34 in.
Expected $600,000-800,000
Wifredo Lam
1944, Oil on paper
laid down on canvas
37 x 28.1/2 in.
Contemporary Artists of the Small English Speaking Caribbean
Earl Etienne
“Papa Bois”
Ellingworth Moses
St. Luica
Arnold Toulon
Heather Doram
St. Vincent
Caroline Sardine
Richard Buchanan
Lyndon Bedeau
Suelin Low Chew Tung
Brian Bullen
Oliver Benoit
Susan Mains
Camille Pissaro
Pablo Picasso
Wilfredo Lam
You can give us documentation
“If you are the big tree
We are the small axe
Ready to cut you down
Well sharp,
to cut you down.”

Small Island Art