Haiti is often known for its grinding poverty, brutal oppression and natural disasters but the biggest exhibition of its art ever staged in the UK aims to provide more of a balance.
“When you walk in here, hopefully it is, on a simple level, visually eye-popping, astonishing,” said the director of Nottingham Contemporary, Alex Farquharson. “These images speak to a very rich culture. There is a lot of joy.”
Farquharson was speaking ahead of the opening of a major show of Haitian art inspired by Vodou, the religion which has been a central part of people’s lives since Haiti became the world’s first black republic in 1804. The Nottingham show is ambitious. It brings together 200 works by 40 artists, from the 1940s to the present day. The beauty and inventiveness of artists mostly from impoverished backgrounds with minimal contact with any established art worlds is striking. Farquharson said Haitian art is often shown in a folk art context, which is unfair. “If I didn’t feel that this work stood up to a lot of work that I think is most interesting in contemporary art then I really wouldn’t be showing it here,” he said.
He hopes it will not comes across as a kind of ethnographic exhibition of naive or as outsider art. “It is not that on a visual level, on a formal level or on an aesthetic level. The works are full of invention and you can differentiate the artists. We are being as exclusive as we would be in selecting contemporary artists for a show.” The works and the stories they tell will be completely new to most visitors, with many having little more than the Bond film Live and Let Die as their Vodou reference point. – CONTINUE READING HERE