end of year sprint

Posted in Opinion, Sex in Caribbean Art by Adele Todd on November 6, 2008

Lovers at Shalini’s exhibition at Y gallery, Port of Spain, Trinidad

In the last few weeks there has been more art shows than you can literally poke a stick at. It has been a dizzying list, from Shastri Maraj to Shalini Seereeram. It leads one to wonder whether our local economy can handle such an onslaught of visual materials, and where is this work going? On first blush, it seems as though it certainly can take it. But, I thought that I would find out.

Ken Chrichlow had his show at Softbox, Che Lovelace, at the Trinidad Art Society, Shalini Singh at More Vino and Janice Derrick at In2Art. Seeing this many shows at years end holds a certain optimism. Both collectors and lovers of local work can actually gallery hop, meet friends and talk about art to their hearts content. There is a great deal to see, from the detailed pastiches of Peter Shepperd and the collage technique of Tonya St. Cyr.

The cost of art seems to start at TT$850 to as high as TT$65,000 in this market. Every show had sales of a modest and not so modest nature. One artist sold nearly everything he showed, and another managed nearly half of their collection. The shows are spaced at two and three every few days. Naturally the season has something to do with it. At the end of the year people are usually in a good mood, or at least want a number of added distractions and the possibility of picking up a piece of work that they like for themselves, family, friends or investment.
But, seeing and hearing all that is going on in the world, I must ask the question, because these shows are so close together, is this a rush to get the market to a certain place? Or is the market about to face a decline, so everyone is trying to get in and out quickly?


A Christmas exhibition for 2008

Obviously the galleries know why they are putting out these shows at this clip. They have all managed to dust off the red and white wine, contact the waiters and secure parking for patrons. The artists have chosen quality picture frames for their months and years of toil, and fresh local flowers abound in crystal vases as people walk around well lit rooms.

After all of the effort, are the galleries and artists happy? I asked a cross section of people their views.

A number of artists told me that their show was posted for the dates later in the year and they have all worked towards their deadlines. Most were not motivated by time of year as such, but by a desire to show their hard work.
On the other hand, buyers are harder to pin down on why they have chosen to spend in a particular way on a particular person. But it is clear that there is a very real sense that there is a desire to purchase something that shall appreciate in value before the painting is wrapped and in their home.
This is so strongly felt that for some buyers, they relish letting their friends know what they are looking at, from their cellphones in the gallery.
Meanwhile one would think that the galleries themselves would be very pleased with all of these sales. But, I have been made to understand that so many shows in such a small space and market can actually reduce the pie significantly, and for a few Art spaces, there is the belief that cutting back a bit on quantity for quality may be the way to go in 2009.


A jewelry exhibition at one of the commercial galleries

What has been made most clear is that artists are out in numbers trying to get a show. This week alone, I got invitations to see the work of Harold Hirminez. Eddie Bowen showed at Above Ground and Galvanize II was launched.
Are artists, galleries and art lovers thinking about the future of local art sales? I do not know. I think that everyone is having a wait and see attitude about art as commerce. When the first shows roll around next year, very quickly it shall be known whether the present pattern will be maintained.
Just yesterday the government decided to scale back much of what they planned in ‘the budget’ for next year after oil prices dropped again.

Whatever 2009 brings, 2008 certainly has prepared us all for the worst, so I would say that that is reason enough to be optimistic, as odd as that may seem.


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