Wouldn't it be great if local art were more accessible so that it could be enjoyed by all?
That desire is the driving reason why The National Gallery of the Cayman Islands is again teaming with Provenance Properties Cayman Islands and Camana Bay to display an outdoor exhibit that starts this month on the Paseo near Books & Books.
National Gallery Director and Chief Curator Natalie Urquhart says the exhibit, which comprises reproductions of paintings from the National Gallery Collection, offers an exploration of how artists engage with the local landscape. Having the exhibit in a high-foot-traffic area like the Paseo will allow people to see the artwork in an accessible setting.
"We are always looking for new ways to expand access to visual art in Cayman outside of the traditional museum structure," said Urquhart. "In the wider scheme of things, all museums nowadays are looking for ways to break out of that box, opening up to audiences that might be a bit intimidated by the museum building. Taking art outdoors and into the community is a great way of doing this.”
The National Gallery promotes and encourages the appreciation and practice of the visual arts through its museum, arts education centre and a variety of community programmes. It has had a long-standing partnership with Dart, including through a sponsorship from Provenance Properties, which has also sought ways to make art more accessible to people in the Cayman Islands.
When Dart Senior Brand Manager Jo Gammage reached out to Urquhart on behalf of Provenance Properties to establish the outdoor gallery in Camana Bay, it was the perfect opportunity for the National Gallery to expand the accessibility of local art.
“As immediate neighbours, we had been looking at different ways to develop programmes — such as the long-running Chalkfest — and to collaborate in the wonderful environment that is the Town Centre of Camana Bay,” Urquhart said.
The display panels on Camana Bay's Paseo were originally installed for a one-month exhibit of Guy Harvey's artwork to commemorate Ocean Conservation Month in 2017, but were situated at the other end of the Paseo closer to the Crescent. The panels were moved to their current location when Provenance Properties sponsored the first exhibit from the National Gallery's Collection, which was on display from January though last month.
While the first exhibit was curated more generally to feature some of the most iconic artists and artworks in the National Collection, the current display is focused on Cayman Islands landscapes and is a variation of an exhibition held at the National Gallery in 2019 called "Tropical Visions." The works range from realism to intuitive art and from contemporary art to abstraction as they trace the lineage of landscape painting in the Cayman Islands. Urquhart said the display celebrates the beauty of Cayman’s natural environment.
The discussion between Dart and the National Gallery about this second iteration started during lockdown, influenced by the challenges people experienced being isolated away from the beautiful environments that Cayman offers.
“As people emerge out of the lockdown situation, the display offers a celebration of Cayman and the incredible natural beauty that artists have been capturing for decades,” she said.
The exhibit will showcase 10 works by different artists, with creative pioneers featured alongside more recent works by contemporary artists. Some will be shown in a larger format than the original work, giving viewers a different perspective on the works.
Works will include various depictions of Cayman's landscape, including two very different artistic visions of a royal poinciana tree in full summer bloom — one, a painting by intuitive artist Edrid Banks Jr., and another by founding chair of the National Gallery, Carol Owen. Other artists featured in the exhibit include Charles Long, Terese Grimes, Debbie Chase van der Bol, Maureen Anderson, Miguel Powery, David Bridgeman, Janet Walker and Chris Mann.
Urquhart hopes that the ongoing outdoor exhibits entice viewers to want to see more art, perhaps taking a stroll through the recently opened underpass that connects Camana Bay to the National Gallery.
“The display, in many ways, allows for an initial conversation around the art,” Urquhart said. “By showing reproductions of the originals, we hope to encourage people to walk across the road and see the real thing in the National Gallery's upper gallery, where we house the collection.”
Gammage said the sponsorship of the National Gallery exhibits at Camana Bay harmonises with Christie's International Real Estate, of which Provenance Properties is the exclusive affiliation in the Cayman Islands.
"Christie's is the world’s leading art auction house and we believe it’s fitting for us to showcase this collection because art, in its many forms, inspires our business,” she said. "We are proud to support the efforts of the National Gallery to make the works in the National Collection more accessible to the visitors of Camana Bay."
This article first appeared in the October 2020 print edition of Camana Bay Times with the headline "Visions of Cayman on display."