The founding mandate of The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas called for two things: to promote Bahamian fine art and also to preserve it; the National Collection serves the latter function. Culled from our own staged exhibitions—as well as from research, studio visits and collaborations with other collections and collectors—the NAGB’s aim is to form an archive for future generations to understand both the development of fine art in The Bahamas and that of a developing nation.
The National Collection must first ask the questions ‘What is Bahamian art?’ ‘Where does the course of our artistic evolution begin?’ Surely its roots reach back to pre-independence times. Early paintings, drawings and water colors from the turn of the 20th century reveal the seeds of our artistic flourishing along with a range of recent contemporary works in diverse media including ceramics, photographs and other mixed media works further highlight the proliferation and evolution of creative and conceptual practices The NAGB National Collection tracks the course of a nation discovering its own voice both artistically and politically, through times of oppression, social change, independence and in a postcolonial context. In our contemporary moment, as native-born sons and daughters increasingly emigrate to live and work abroad, and as this changes the make-up of nations — Europe, Asia, The Americas and the Global South — the question as to who is a Bahamian artist is still a question we must strive to answer.
The act of collecting is an act of authorship and ownership. The telling of our own story is a key component of nation building, as well as an important educational tool, and an investment in the human capital of The Bahamas. By exhibiting our National Collection in different forms — through curated shows in the Permanent Exhibition rooms of the NAGB — and through public loans, we are able to create different vistas and points of view of our country and its creative output. We share this readily and openly with foreign and local visitors. Through an active and ongoing historicizing of the collection, and by highlighting individual works from the collection through our monthly Artwork of the Month pieces, the NAGB continues to educate, showcase and underscore how vital art is as a component of the national dialogue.
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