The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB) has seen the ending of another prominent show – The Seventh National Exhibition, Antillean: an Ecology. A success by most measures, the exhibition provoked discussions about race, class, economy, privilege and gender from students at the primary level to senior generations. It transcended cultural and societal barriers to get people thinking about the intangible, but longstanding, barriers hindering the country’s unity and progression.
Now the NAGB looks forward to opening its upcoming temporary exhibition, “Celebrating 40 Years of The Central Bank: A Pillar of Arts Commitment”.
“Celebrating 40 Years of The Central Bank: A Pillar of Arts Commitment” will highlight the role Central Bank of The Bahamas has played in developing the country’s visual arts community since its founding. Organizers intend the show to commemorate Central Bank’s commitment to serving as a reservoir of wealth in both financial and cultural spheres. The exhibition will showcase over 80 works by 72 artists featured in Central Bank’s extensive art collection. Curated by NAGB Director Amanda Coulson, the show opens on June 2.
Central Bank of The Bahamas was established in 1974, and under the governance of T. Baswell Donaldson, it began investing in artwork to adorn its headquarters downtown.
By the bank’s 10th anniversary in 1984, it already held a reasonable collection, with works by the early pioneers of Bahamian art, like Eddie Minnis, R. Brent Malone and Max Taylor. The bank’s governor during those years, Sir William Allen, is remembered as a prominent supporter of the visual arts in The Bahamas. Under his leadership, Villa Doyle was purchased as the grounds for the future National Art Gallery of The Bahamas. He noted, during his term in office, that though many Bahamians were acquiring symbols of wealth during the economic boom, art was not included in the schema of markers of success the way that cars and clothing were; many Bahamian artists were still struggling.
With hopes of offering a continuous display of artwork to the public, the bank repurposed its reception area on Market Street and Trinity Place into a gallery space.
Establishing two annual competitions for high school students and artists under 26, respectively, Central Bank hoped to encourage young Bahamians to pursue art while adding to its collection simultaneously. Contest winners would receive cash prizes and have their work join the Central Bank collection.
The contests and gallery brought attention to art creation and collection and made a public statement about the importance of visual art in community.
In 1984, noted artist Antonius Roberts was announced as the first Central Bank curator – a position he held for 10 years. It was his job to oversee the competition and exhibition space. Through his and his successors’ work, the names and work of hundreds, if not thousands, of developing Bahamian artists came to public attention. Roberts has since returned to serve as the bank’s curator.
Today, the Central Bank high school and open category competitions continue to inspire the development of groundbreaking artists.
The talents of Jace McKinney, whose remarkable “Where is He Going, Where Has He Been” piece won the 2012 Central Bank Open Category Competition and now stands in the NAGB’s permanent exhibition; it continues to wow gallery visitors on a regular basis.
Another young Bahamian who has benefited from the bank’s commitment to fine art collection and promotion is Central Bank Assistant Curator Jodi Minnis. A young artist herself, Minnis works alongside Roberts as the Central Bank curatorial assistant. She is also known for her work with the NAGB as the gallery’s assistant.
Jackson Petit is a third example of an artist linked to both the NAGB and Central Bank. The painter has worked in the NAGB’s curatorial and digital media departments for 10 years. He jumpstarted his creative career early on with his “Nature Intertwined” piece, which won the bank’s high school competition in 2001. In 2011, he won the bank’s open competition with his “Beautiful Monsters” work. Both pieces will be featured in the upcoming exhibition at the NAGB.
Lavar Munroe, whose pieces are currently on display at therenowned Venice Biennale, also got his foot in the door with “My Love, My Passion, My Art” – a youthful experimentation that won him the 2003 open competition. He won again in 2009 with “You Must Be Wondering The Type of Creature I Am”. These works will also be on display in Celebrating 40 Years of The Central Bank.
Roshanne Minnis Eyma and sister Nicole Minnis, who both recently exhibited at the NAGB in The Minnis-Eyma family exhibition, Creation’s Grace, are among the many names of noteworthy Central Bank artists.
“The art show at the Central Bank of the Bahamas really helped to launch my career in art. I started competing at age 14, and it encouraged me to start producing professional work while still in high school. It gave me the validation and exposure I needed at the time to become a serious artist. I am forever grateful,” said Minnis-Eyma.
At Celebrating 40 Years of The Central Bank: A Pillar of Arts Commitment, visitors will art representing the bank’s history and its outstanding service to Bahamian art. Guests can look forward to experiencing works celebrating everyday Bahamian living. The bank’s extensive collection of early development works including etches, photographs and drawings by now well-known artists in their early beginnings will also play a starring role in the show, and the exhibition’s figure section will emphasize recognizable figures, like national pastimes in R. Brent Malone’s “Junkanoo Cowbeller” and heritage in Erin Treco’s “African Woman”.
Celebrating 40 Years of The Central Bank: A Pillar of Arts Commitment opens at 6 p.m. on June 2 at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas. Also that night, the inaugural exhibition of the Double Dutch project, 50/50, starring works by Blue Curry and Bermudian artist James Cooper will open at the NAGB. For more information on the NAGB’s upcoming exhibitions, contact the gallery at 328-5800 or visit its website at nagb.org.bs.