Recent McCoy Prize winner Aston Ebanks and National Gallery Director Nancy Barnard rendezvoused recently at Art Basel in Switzerland, courtesy of one of the show’s longest-running sponsors, UBS.
The director attended the show on the gallery’s behalf, having secured financial support for the fact-finding trip from UBS (Cayman) Ltd, whose head office is based in the Swiss capital.
According to a gallery release, Mrs. Barnard’s attendance at the exhibition, billed as the largest art show in the world, was a long-held ambition, due to the show’s unrivalled potential as a source of future National Gallery exhibitions.
The trip also proved an ideal opportunity for Mrs. Barnard to meet the 2005 prize winner in the fine art category, Mr. Ebanks.
The director not only personally presented Mr. Ebanks with his McCoy Prize, she was also able to take advantage of the long-time Swiss resident’s extensive local knowledge to sample much of what Art Basel had to offer.
Art Basel had hundreds of galleries representing thousands of artists from around the world. Mrs. Barnard also attended the Art Basel Conversations lecture series. One of the talks explored museum/gallery architecture, instrumental to the National Gallery’s current direction.
Art Lobby offered the gallery’s director an opportunity to join group discussions on various topics including the state of art criticism, art collecting and art journalism.
The release added that the noted art writer Anthony Hayden Guest and art editor Sarah Douglas also attended.
Armed with a brace of newly acquired contacts, Mrs. Barnard hopes to use her favourite Art Basel finds to plan future National Gallery exhibitions.
‘It was an incredible experience, and it would be excellent to have Caymanian artists represented on that commercial level one day,’ she said.
The gallery plan to hold a slide presentation and talk on the contemporary art viewed at Art Basel at some future date.
Caymanian artist abroad
Mr. Ebanks has spent almost the entire decade since meeting his Swiss-born wife, Tanja, travelling, living and working in places including Grand Cayman, Western Samoa and Switzerland.
He recently walked away with a first prize in the McCoy competition for his ‘Overexposed Goodness’, described as a pop-conceptual work emphasising the cultural mores of Caymanian life though its representation of corned-beef cans instead of the more iconic and expected Campbell soup cans, a reference to the bold, colourful Warhol-inspired work.
With his McCoy Prize educational grant, he plans to attend an intensive film course.
The artist — and his immediate family — is now in George Town until August. He and his wife hope to relocate to Grand Cayman on a more permanent basis in January.
Mr. Ebanks, one of the gallery’s guest curators next year, is interested in film, photography, electronic media, and both fashion and interior design.
UBS is not only widely supportive of the visual arts, but is one of the few banking institutions that offer an ‘Art Banking’ service, which locates and researches market opportunities for the purchase and sale of art.
The feature helps devise a strategy, then acts for clients, to access UBS’s exclusive network of buyers and sellers from the bank’s private-client base.