Three TT artists are exhibiting in the first Atlantic World Art Fair (AWAF) on the fine art website Artsy.net.
The virtual event, which runs until June 21, is the first time the art powerhouse, the leading marketplace to discover, buy, and sell fine art, has focused on the Caribbean.
Each artist is represented by a gallery, and the work chosen is picked by the artists and their respective curators. The artists are photographer Abigail Hadeed, represented by Barbadian-based curatorial agency Sour Grass, visual artist Roberta Stoddart, represented by Jamaican gallery Suzie Wong Presents, and mixed-media artist Rodell Warner, represented by Bahamian gallery Tern Gallery.
The fair was initiated by Bermuda's Black Pony Gallery. Proprietors of Sour Grass, Annalee Davis and Holly Bynoe, said they had a series of conversations with the director of the Black Pony Gallery, Lisa Howie, in early 2020, in which the idea of the art fair was floated.
“During these discussions, we started to speak about what a virtual Atlantic-focused art fair would mean for Caribbean institutions and artists, seeing that we take up very little presence in the global art market. Howie, having been a member of Artsy and the lead initiator for the fair, invited us to join her in this inaugural venture whereby the Caribbean would be represented on its terms through this internationally recognised platform.”
Davis and Bynoe said the fair has developed a robust online programme, including panel discussions, less formal artist-to-artist conversations and moderated critical conversations, supporting deeper understanding and recognition of the Caribbean region through the arts.
“This programming series is important, as the region is often thought about as a tourism and investment haven and not necessarily a place that generates ideas and manifests creative spirit, entrepreneurial rigour and tenacity. The programming will deliver to a global audience a more succinct understanding of the makeup of the geographical, geopolitical and ideological sensibilities of those working inside and outside of the region. It will present information that demystifies artists' work while giving a broader sense of localities and presence.”
They said the Caribbean is disproportionately underrepresented in the art world, which is not aware of the contributions that Caribbean artists have made and are making,
“It is important to have artists from the region and its diaspora represented in the AWAF to generate awareness of the powerful work being produced and increase the visibility of the art practices in the region. Along with the eight regional galleries, Sour Grass is taking up space by showing works that reveal the complexity, intellectual rigour, magic and potency these artists possess.
“From an economic perspective, cultural workers worldwide have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and those based in the Caribbean have had less economic support to weather this storm. Despite the challenging fiscal environment, the region seems to be going through a cultural renaissance with a proliferation of artistic production across the region. The Atlantic World Art Fair allows access to the global art market, and our presence must be felt in this milieu, enhancing sustainability, especially in a time like this.”
Sour Grass is representing a variety of artists from throughout the Caribbean.
Hadeed’s series Not So Enchanted was chosen by Davis and Bynoe to be featured in the fair. The series focuses on the 300 workers who were trapped at sea on a cruise ship.
She said the initiative is a unique one, “because I wasn’t aware of something like that happening, where the region got together in terms of galleries and artists and curators to really have a combined presence on Artsy.
"We have really a diverse range of curators, artists, and practitioners, we all are different practising practitioners, quite a few of us are lens-based practitioners, and I am obviously very proud and excited to be part of this first initiative. I’m sure it’s going to be an annual event.”
She said the idea and concept was helpful not only to the galleries and curators but also the artists.
“It’s like a cross-pollination of all our artists and connections. It also connects artists with other artists in different parts of the region and the curators bring their knowledge and contacts and collectors to the region.
"So, all in all, I think it will benefit us to have such a much wider audience. I think in terms of collecting or what collectors can and could do for the region. Particularly in terms of collecting work by lens-based practitioners, it is a step in the right direction, and hopefully, through this exposure, people who do work in the lens-based medium will also have an opportunity for new people to see their work, not just regionally but locally as well.”
The Jamaican-born Stoddart’s work in the fair ranges from work she’s done over the past 25 years to recent work focused on the pandemic. She said she has worked closely with Susanne Frederick of Suzie Wong Presents for years and knows that Frederick cares about her work.
“I felt very excited to be included in the fair. I feel very excited about the initiative because it means that several galleries from the Caribbean would be participating, and we would hopefully be able to achieve some degree of promotion, exposure, engagement, and interaction.
"There have been panels on video, there have been talks, and there have been spotlight moments on Instagram by the galleries who have been featuring the artist’s work on a variety of media like the Artsy platform, Instagram, and e-mail, so the fact that several artists from the Caribbean are on the platform is really wonderful, it’s exciting, and of course always a privilege.”
Warner works in new media and photography. His work in the fair is a combination of photographs and animation.
In the Atlantic World Art Fair introduction on the Artsy website, the curators invite viewers and collectors to share in the exploration of a dynamic and under-represented region of innovation.
“We are a group of nine galleries and curatorial agencies, with decades of investment in artistic talents and practice. We aim to elevate the conversation on the contemporary art makers in the Caribbean, the Atlantic Islands and the region’s wider diasporas. Together we will introduce the world to some of the talented artists we are working with, build necessary cultural capital, and develop partnerships that will strengthen our collective efforts.”
The curators invite viewers and collectors to discover creative expressions that reflect intertwined histories, relations and cultures informed by peoples of Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe.
“The complexity of these thoughtful expressions will shift perceptions of the region, satisfy a range of aesthetics and raise important questions.”
For more information on the Atlantic World Art Fair, go to https://www.artsy.net/fair/atlantic-world-art-fair-2021.