National Gallery launches second Cayman Islands Biennial

'The Forgotten House' - Carlos V. Garcia (2021)

The National Gallery launched its second Cayman Islands Biennial on 23 April, with artworks displayed in multiple venues over Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.

The project is running through 27 Aug., and is organised under the title ‘Reimagined Futures’. The curatorial team invited artists to respond to the monumental upheavals that have taken place in 2020, such as the worldwide impact of the coronavirus pandemic; ongoing concerns relating to climate change and environmental stewardship; social equity and justice movements; and questions of identity and belonging in the wake of rapid changes.

The guiding theme for this Biennial is intended to recast the long months of lockdown as an extended interlude – an opportunity for everyone to pause and reflect on their collective future.

An open call for submissions was announced in November 2020, and the gallery subsequently received applications from 75 artists. The final selection, shortlisted through a rigorous juried process, includes work by 42 local artists in a wide variety of media: from painting, photography and video, to collage, textiles, drawing and sculpture, as well as installation and video art. The names of many of the participants should be already well-familiar to anyone living in Cayman.

In keeping with the concept of a Biennial – which is a large-scale multi-site exhibition project featuring numerous artists that recurs every two years – artworks are being displayed simultaneously at five different locations across the Cayman Islands. Project hosts include the National Gallery as the Biennial’s primary organiser, along with Owen Roberts International Airport, the National Trust’s Mission House, the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, and the Little Cayman Museum, along with special programming in Cayman Brac. Each site has a unique element of the project, with some functioning as a venue for multiple artists, and others – as in the case of Mission House and Botanic Park – as sites for single art intervention.

One of the project hosts, John Lawrus, general manager of the Botanic Park, said, “As the Park is a living gallery of our native flora, we are very pleased to be a partner and installation location for the National Gallery’s Biennial. We hope to engage lovers of arts and nature in one location as they discover the impact of art within a natural setting.”

The gallery expressed its gratitude to each of the satellite hosts for working with the curatorial team.

“Together, these sites create a platform for a series of dynamic conversations between the exhibited artworks and the broader social and cultural context in which they are situated,” read a statement from the curatorial team. “It is this sensitivity and responsiveness to pressing issues, both local and global, that characterises the works in this exhibition – concerns that unite the multiple voices of the Biennial’s featured artists.”

The Biennial project includes the prestigious Bendel Hydes Award component, with awards being presented to the top selected artist, as well as an Emerging Artist Award for the most promising newcomer. Supported by the gallery chairperson, Susan A. Olde, both awards will be selected by a jury of international curators and announced in June.

The project is also supported by an extensive education programme of workshops, panel discussions, screenings and lectures relating to the Biennial sub-themes and designed to provide developmental support for the art community, as well as to introduce the public to both established and emerging artists.

The curatorial team members are Kerri-Anne Chisholm, Paige Jordison, William Helfrecht, Maia Muttoo and Natalie Urquhart, with the original selection committee comprising Amanda Coulson, Davin Ebanks and Emé Paschalides. It has once again been made possible through partnership with the inaugural Biennial supporters Susan A. Olde, Butterfield Bank (Cayman) Limited, and the Ministry of Health, Environment, Culture and Housing.

Michael McWatt, Butterfield’s managing director, commented, “The Biennial endeavours to showcase the high calibre of work currently practised in the Cayman Islands and recognises the very best of Cayman’s artistic talent through a competitive awards process. This year is no exception and the 42 artists featured in the showcase truly illustrate the remarkable creative talent that we have here in Cayman.”

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

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