National Gallery launches Biennial Exhibition and award

The National Gallery of the Cayman Islands, in partnership with Butterfield, recently announced the launch of the inaugural Cayman Islands Biennial and related Art Awards scheme. The initiative seeks to showcase the very latest developments in the contemporary art scene every two years.

Following an open call announced in Sept. 2018 for participation in the inaugural exhibition, the Gallery received submissions from 71 local artists. This invitation afforded participants the widest degree of latitude in their creative submissions and a chance to develop innovative new work that was free of formal or aesthetic restraints. The final selection, short-listed through a rigorous juried process, includes work by 40 local artists in a wide variety of media: From painting, photography and video, to collage, drawing and sculpture, as well as installation pieces, video art, poetry, textiles, fiber arts and ceramics and performance art.

Featured artists for the first iteration of the Biennial include: Jawara Alleyne, Shane Aquart, John Bird, Cameron Bridgeman, David Bridgeman, John Broad, Randy Chollette, Julie Corsetti, Alan Darvill, Frans De Backer, Bryony Dixon, Al Ebanks, Davin Ebanks, Kaitlyn Elphinstone, Kathryn Elphinstone, Horacio Esteban, Jamie Hahn, Tessa Hansen, Suvi Hayden, Bendel Hydes, Tyra Iton, Paige Jordison, Jason Kennedy, Marc Laurenson, Maureen Lazarus, Chris Mann, Rory Mann, Sarah McDougall, Claire Musser, Pascal Pernix, Pippa Ridley, Brandon Saunders, Renate Seffer, Gordon Solomon, Nasaria Suckoo-Chollette, Scott Swing, Marianna Szekley, Jeremy Walton, Avril Ward and Marcie Wood.

“This is a very exciting new platform for contemporary art in the Cayman Islands,” explains National Gallery Director and Chief Curator Natalie Urquhart. “In launching this Biennial, the National Gallery seeks to encourage artists to challenge the boundaries of art and to critically engage with their surroundings. Every other year, the Gallery will, through this recurring exhibition, endeavor to showcase the high calibre of work currently practiced in the Cayman Islands and recognise the very best of Cayman’s artistic talent through a competitive awards process.”

The title for the inaugural Biennial takes its name Cross Currents from the notion of a moving body of water; a continual stream that flows from one place to another. Honouring tradition while reinvigorating historical themes, the 40 participants in this year’s Biennial each represent, in their own distinct way, different approaches to the question: What is contemporary Caymanian art? Through their innovative use of new media and techniques, as well as their engagement with timely social, political and environmental concerns, the artists in Cross Currents offer a window into contemporary art creation on these shores. Ultimately the Biennial hopes to spark dialog between artists, educators and the viewing public, and to raise the international profile of the Caymanian art world by encouraging conversations across the Caribbean region and beyond.

An important component of the project includes the introduction of two new prestigious Art Awards. Says Urquhart, “Presented for the first time in 2019, the Bendel Hydes Award – which has been named to honor Caymanian artist Bendel Hydes in recognition of his distinguished 45-year career – will be presented to the artist whose work the jury considers the most accomplished in this year’s exhibition in terms of technical and conceptual strength, and originality.” This award will offer the recipient a significant monetary prize and the opportunity to develop a solo exhibition with the National Gallery. The winning entry will also be considered for acquisition for the National Art Collection.

Cross Currents will also feature the Emerging Artist Award which will be presented to the winning artist in the under-30 category, comprising of a developmental grant toward a residency program or related training opportunity. “These Awards have both been developed to provide much needed grant support for artists at both the established and emerging level,” adds Urquhart. “We hope to see it inspire more such opportunities moving forward.”

The Biennial project will be supported by an extensive education program of workshops, panel discussions, screenings and lectures, designed to provide developmental support for the art community as well as to introduce the public to both established and emerging artists. The broad range of topics will include Portfolio Clinics, writing workshops, how to set up a creative business that is profitable, how to connect to galleries, collectors and dealers, how to market artwork, updates of IP and copyright laws that concern artists and much more. Hosted under the umbrella of the Gallery’s ongoing Business of Art series, these workshops will be hosted by both local experts and a collection of visiting international curators. They will be free for all participants thanks to the support of exhibition partner Butterfield.

The exhibition will open to the public on Saturday, kicking off a program of special events.

The special lecture “Exploring Biennial Models in the Caribbean” runs from 6 to 7:30 p.m. featuring international guests Veerle Poupeye, art historian and former director and chief curator of the Jamaica Biennial and Erica Moiah James, assistant professor in the department of art and art History at The University of Miami and former director of The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas. They will be in discussion with Urquhart. Admission is free and refreshments will be served.

There will also be the Art Portfolio Clinic for artists on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. hosted by Poupeye and James that will offer portfolio reviews and feedback, tutorials in writing artist bios and statements, and best practices for developing submissions to exhibitions, residencies and grants opportunities.

About the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands

Established in 1996, the Gallery is the country’s leading visual arts museum and education center, charged with promoting and encouraging the appreciation and practice of the visual arts in the Cayman Islands. This mission is achieved through exhibitions, education/outreach programs, school tours, community festivals, and ongoing research projects. Holding up to six exhibitions annually at its central exhibition space, and satellite venues around Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands, the curatorial team strives to create a balance between exhibitions of quality Caymanian artwork with art from further afield. This is achieved by working with a broad cross section of artists and ranging from site-specific work to more traditional gallery-based projects.

For a full list of all workshops, lectures and events running throughout the Biennial please visit www.nationalgallery/exhibitions/biennial and to participate in the related school program or book a tour, please email [email protected]