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Some emblematic artworks from the Caribbean

What are in your opinion the most emblematic works in the Caribbean? The works that will remain through their renown for:

Their inventiveness and innovating peculiarities;

Their implantation in the territory and the issues;

Their impact on the public;

Their pedigree, meaning their evolution in well-known exhibitions in which they appeared, the museums and leading galleries art fairs or biennials thatfeatured them, the collectors popular in the media and press who bought them, and also the articles or writings that they inspired, their outstanding auction prices.

Of course, everyone has their favourites and even so their list will change, but from the confrontation between various lists it will be possible to draw a generaltrend.


La jungle Wifredo Lam

La jungle
Wifredo Lam

Personally, as an example Wifredo Lam’s The Jungle comes first.

The Jungle is a painting on paper pasted on canvas that Wifredo Lam completed in twenty days, between December 1942 and January 1943, on his return to Cuba after staying in Martinique and meeting Aimé Césaire. It was bought by a prestigious museum, the MOMA in New York, after Lam’s second exhibition in Pierre Matisse Gallery. This work has since been featured in many international art shows.

According to Mark Jouffroy, The Jungle is ‘the first revolutionary artistic declaration of a Third World that would already be conscious of the necessity to bring together all cultures and the announcement of this awakening to the whole world’. 


Hervé Télémaque One of our 36 000 Marines

Hervé Télémaque
One of our 36 000 Marines

The second work is from Hervé Télémaque (Haiti). He is a major artist of critical figurative art more particularly for his painting One of our 36000 marines, whose sale reached 292 000€ at Christie’s in 2006. This painting made the headline of French newspapers, Le Figaro and L’Humanité in 1965 as an evocation of a current event i.e. the invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965.

 Baron Lacroix by Patrick Vilaire (Haiti); this artist was featured in 1989 in the Magicians of the Earth exhibition, then in 1994 in the twenty-second Sao Paolo Biennial; in 1997 in Fondation Cartier, and then in 2007 in Kreyol Factory.


Baron Lacroix  Patrick Vilaire

Baron Lacroix
Patrick Vilaire

While Peinture Naïve has dominated in Haiti since the 40s, Patrick Vilaire and a blacksmith from Croix des Bouquets, started to work with metal and welding.

Peter Minshall (Trinidad & Guiana) is also a major figure.


Peter Minshall Man Crabe

Peter Minshall
Man Crabe

He started training in theatre scenography. Then under his influence in the 80s art creation and Carnival joined forces. He modernized the concept; more feathers, more sequins, more glitter… but questioning life today, Man Crab (1983) is a performance with two thousand participants which evokes the destruction of nature by modern life. Hence the confrontation between two characters, Man Crab who represents Evil and Washerwoman standing for purity and harmony. Man Crab moves on and while his pincers and arms move, the white silk above it becoming blood red.

Let us not forget to mention Kcho: as he graduated from Cuba’s National School of Art he got international renown during the 5th Biennial in La Havana with his work La Regata(1993-94); hundreds of little wooden and paper boats compose this work, with old shoes, egg shells, etc. Then what characterized his work was the use of elements such as the boat, the oars, propellers and tyres. Among the awards he got, the Prix de l’UNESCO for the promotion of art (1995, Geneva Switzerland) and the award at the 4th Biennial of the Caribbean, in the Modern Art Museum (2001, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic). Among the numerous sites where he exhibited his works we can quote: the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume (Paris), the Barbara Gladstone Gallery in New York, National Museum Art Centre Reina Sofia (Madrid) or the National Fine Arts Museum (La Havana).


Kcho La Regata

La Regata

Cinco Carrozas para la Historia by Marcos Lora Read (Dominican Republic) is already represented in two articles from this blog,  A propos de Cinco Carrozas para la Historia dated April 19th 2013. This work can also be listed as emblematic of the Caribbean.

Then, Allora and Calzadilla (Porto Rico), a couple of artists living in Porto Rico, question Globalization, Independence and political control.


Allora&Calzadilla Landmark4


In Landmark 4, a series created with some activists from Vieques, Porto Rico, they question the way in which our land is marked: what tracks of our existence on earth do we leave? To protest against the tests made by the American army for sixty years damaging the population’s health, Allora and Calzadilla worked with groups of activists to create rubber soles for shoes that they wore during civil disobedience acts. When activists entered the zone of bombardment of Vieques – stopping thus the bombing of the day (it became so costly that in 2003, the American government complied and closed down the beach)- they left behind them tracks of messages engraved by the militants on the soles. With a view to be seen not in a gallery but only by the military staff working in the bombing site, the tracks are the way for them to conquer this territory back.

Then, undoubtedly, Mar Caribe by Tony Capellan (Dominican Republic), exhibited more than once to the public likeFàbulasAbiertas, Museo de Arte Moderno, Santo Domingo, 1996;Island Nations, Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 2004; Island Thresholds: Contemporary Art from the Caribbean, Peabody Essex Museum, East India Square, Salem, 2005; Kreyol Factory, Parc de la Villette, Paris, 2009; Trienal del Caribe de Santo Domingo Museo de Arte Moderno, Santo Domingo, Republican Republic, 2010.


Tony Capellan Mar Caribe

Tony Capellan
Mar Caribe

Mar Caribe denounces both the invasion of the Dominican beaches by debris from objects made from oil and the precarious situation of the country symbolized by the sandals worn by a majority of Dominicans.

The Annunciation by Stanley Greaves (Barbados & Guiana), Negerhosen, 2000 by Jean Ulrick Désert (Haiti & Germany), The Liberation of Aunt Jemima by Renée Cox (Jamaica), A Creole Conversation Piece by Joscelyn Gardner (Barbados), and for Martinique, Restitution by Victor Anicet, and many others definitely are also included in the emblematic works from the Caribbean. Those will be presented later. You can also add works to this list.

Dominique Brebion

Traduction Suzanne Lampla

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