National Gallery to showcase contemporary artists

| 31/01/2019
CNS Local Life
National Gallery of the Cayman Islands

(CNS Local Life): The National Gallery is launching the Cayman Islands Biennial, and a related art awards scheme, to showcase the latest developments in the contemporary art scene every two years. Following an open call for participation, announced in September 2018, the gallery received submissions from 71 local artists, with 40 selected for the inaugural exhibition.

“This is a very exciting new platform for contemporary art in the Cayman Islands,” said Natalie Urquhart, National Gallery director and chief curator, in a press release. “In launching this Biennial, the National Gallery seeks to encourage artists to challenge the boundaries of art and to critically engage with their surroundings.

“Every other year, NGCI will, through this recurring exhibition, endeavour to showcase the high calibre of work currently practised in the Cayman Islands and recognise the very best of Cayman’s artistic talent through a competitive awards process.”

The open call afforded participants the widest degree of latitude in their creative submissions and a chance to develop innovative new work that was free of formal or aesthetic restraints, the gallery said in the press release.

The final selection, shortlisted through a rigorous juried process, includes work in a wide variety of media from painting, photography and video, to collage, drawing and sculpture, as well as installation pieces, video art, poetry, textiles, fibre arts and ceramics and performance art.

The selected artists are Jawara Alleyne, Shane Aquart, John Bird, Cameron Bridgeman, David Bridgeman, John Broad, Randy Chollette, Julie Corsetti, Alan Darvill, Frans De Backer, Bryony Dixon, Al Ebanks, Davin Ebanks, Kaitlyn Elphinstone, Kathryn Elphinstone, Horacio Esteban, Jamie Hahn, Tessa Hansen, Suvi Hayden, Bendel Hydes, Tyra Iton, Paige Jordison, Jason Kennedy, Marc Laurenson, Maureen Lazarus, Chris Mann, Rory Mann, Sarah McDougall, Claire Musser, Pascal Pernix, Pippa Ridley, Brandon Saunders, Renate Seffer, Gordon Solomon, Nasaria Suckoo Chollette, Scott Swing, Marianna Szekley, Jeremy Walton, Avril Ward and Marcie Wood. 

The title for the inaugural Biennial, “Cross Currents”, comes from the idea of a moving body of water. In a statement, the curatorial team explained, “A current in form is circular and not unidirectional, carrying itself and those in its midst effortlessly across time and space.” The curators added, “Much like the passage of water across the open seas, the face of contemporary art in Cayman is constantly shifting, reflecting the interweaving of tradition and contemporaneity that is perhaps the defining characteristic of these Islands in the 21st century.”

The gallery said that it hopes the Biennial sparks dialogue among artists, educators and the viewing public, eventually raising the international profile of the Caymanian art world by encouraging conversations across the Caribbean and beyond.

Along with this new exhibition, the gallery is introducing two new art awards. Urquhart explained that the Bendel Hydes Award – in honour of the Caymanian artist’s 45-year career – “will be presented to the artist whose work the jury considers the most accomplished in this year’s exhibition in terms of technical and conceptual strength, and originality”.

In addition to a cash prize, the recipient will be offered the opportunity to develop a solo exhibition with the National Gallery. The winning entry will also be considered for acquisition for the National Art Collection.

The Emerging Artist Award, presented to an artist who is under 30 years old, will offer a developmental grant towards a residency programme or related training opportunity.

“These awards have both been developed to provide much-needed grant support for artists at both the established and emerging level,” said Urquhart. “We hope to see it inspire more such opportunities moving forward.”

The Biennial project will be supported by an extensive education programme of workshops, panel discussions, screenings and lectures, designed to provide developmental support for the art community as well as to introduce the public to both established and emerging artists, the release stated.

The topics, presented by both local experts and a series of visiting international curators, will include portfolio clinics; writing workshops; how to set up a creative business that is profitable; how to connect to galleries, collectors and dealers; how to market artwork; and updates of IP and copyright laws that concern artists.

The workshops, hosted under the umbrella of NGCI’s ongoing “Business of Art” series, will be free to attend, due to the support of exhibition partner Butterfield.

The Biennial exhibition will open to the public on Saturday, 9 February and run through 18 April.

For a full list of all workshops, lectures and events running throughout the Biennial go to the National Gallery website. To participate in the related school programme or to book a tour, email

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Category: Arts, Visual Arts

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