The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB) was the first institution of its kind in the history of The Bahamas, announced in 1996, by then-Prime Minister, Hubert A. Ingraham, as part of a larger expanded system of museums that would record, preserve and historicize the narrative of the independent sovereign nation, established in 1973.
The NAGB is housed in the historic Villa Doyle (see below) situated on West and West Hill Streets, in Historic Charles Towne and on the border of Delancy Town, and is within easy walking distance of Downtown Nassau’s port and main business quarter. It physically bridges the two districts that are at the core of the nation: bustling Downtown—the hub of colonial power and continued wealth through commerce and tourism—and the ‘Over-the-Hill’ community—also known as the ‘nation’s navel’—where the Majority Rule leaders were born and raised. Sadly, once a thriving middle class community, the latter is now considerably diminished.
The museum boasts four gallery spaces—the PE, or permanent exhibition space, on the ground floor, which houses rotating shows drawn on the National Collection; The PS Room, a project space for monthly interventions, also on the ground floor; and two temporary exhibition spaces on the second floor (T1 and T2).
The NAGB is partially funded by a governmental subvention but engages a public-private network to operate and is also supported by the community that it serves, in the form of ticket sales, memberships, donations and otherwise.
The NAGB is committed to engaging the history of Bahamian fine art and visual culture, making creative output accessible to diverse Bahamian audiences and local residents, and to be a showpiece for visitors from abroad to appreciate superior Bahamian fine art. A stimulating environment for learning about Bahamian history and culture through the Permanent Collection, the NAGB is also a platform for creative thinkers and supports contemporary movements and experimental art practice through rotating temporary exhibitions, an extensive public program schedule, and through a dynamic outreach programme with community and regional projects beyond our walls. Already a physical bridge, the NAGB further aims to be a cultural and social unifier between the wealthy Downtown tourist district at its doorstep and the neglected ‘Over-the-Hlll’ district at its back door, as well as the Family Islands. The mandate to increase audience participation at home is replicated by a vigorous international outreach agenda to engage with curators, critics and art practitioners in such a way that the nation will be recognized internationally for its cultural achievements.
The establishment of Free Resident Sundays in 2014 has begun to eradicate the perceived barrier of admission. Corporate Partnerships, allowing for free Bahamian access during key holiday periods, as well as a summer camp, arts education programmes, and workshops, have quadrupled visitor records over the last 3 years.
The museum is housed in the Villa Doyle, a mansion built in the 1860s as the home to first Chief Justice in The Bahamas. After the addition of a new wing in the 1920s, it became one of Nassau’s prized stately homes. Positioned on the rise overlooking the top of West Street, Villa Doyle is typical of great houses of earlier centuries with surrounding verandahs that offer a commanding view of both the city and the sea.
Left to wrack and ruin in the modern age, many argued for its demolition to obliterate the reminder of our colonial past. Under a campaign lead by historian and founding Chairman, Dr. Gail Saunders, the building was saved as a site where history could be recognized, unpacked and interpreted. The building was subsequently lovingly restored in the 1990s to become the NAGB.
Villa Doyle’s restoration took almost seven years to complete involving a dedicated team of professionals and consultants under the supervision of architect, Anthony Jervis; Civil Engineer, Mr. George Cox; and the National Art Gallery’s Committee chaired by Dr. Gail Saunders.
Board of Directors
An Act of Parliament founded The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB) in 2003 as a non-profit, quasi-governmental, private corporation. The independent corporate body is governed by a Board of Directors, appointed to serve three-year terms. Seven of the twelve Board positions are ex-officio and are filled by whomever is currently filling the post, or by their appointee.
The current Board consists of:
Chairman - Mr. Stan Burnside
Deputy Chairperson - Mrs. Chantal Bethel
Secretary - Mr. Antonius Roberts
Director of Archives - Mrs. Elaine Toote
Director of Tourism - Mrs. Joy Jbrilu
Director of Culture - Mrs. Rowena Poitier-Sutherland
President of the College of the Bahamas (appointee) - Dr. Ian Bethell-Bennett, Dean of the Faculty of Liberal and Fine Arts
Bahamas Historical Society - Mrs. Clarice Granger
Director of the AMMC - Dr. Keith Tinker
Director of NAGB - Mrs. Amanda Coulson
Dr. Gail Saunders
Mrs. Elizabeth Dingman