The Decline Of Art Galleries, Across The Island

So whether goeth the Art Galleries of Kingston and why are they in retreat to the point of near extinction? 

Truth be told, the death knell was sounded when the new owners of the Mutual Gallery, closed that space, and honestly, this was not an exorbitant space, in terms of square footage or metres, but it was a massive space in the Art world, a meeting place if you will and crosswords where Art met the rest of the world as in the minds of the established artist, the up and coming; the hopeful and those seeking mentors to help them navigate the art world, the Mutual Gallery was the icebreaker. 

And lest we forget, Pat Ramsay, at the Mutual Life Gallery, with her social creds, was a crucial link between corporate Jamaica, the artist and buyers in general.

And It was Pat Ramsay who sensitised many in Corporate Jamaica to the value of investing in art as a model to inspire, uplift and change the fortunes of many, especially the challenged inner-city young artist, whose choices were narrow and or limited. A Feat that her successor at the Mutual Gallery, Gilou Bauer, continued and took the next level, as she provided exposure, bursaries and commissions to many a ‘trying’ artist, looking a buss. 

The Closure of the Mutual Gallery was like the lead domino, in the Domino effect, that sees the chain reaction of all falling when the first one does. And it’s been going downhill, ever since then. 

One must also be cognizant of the fact that spending habits changed due to changed circumstances; moguls who appreciated, collected and sponsored shows and artists, have been upended, some transitioned, and some by natural attrition, others by the shift in “strength-of-Cash”; and then there’s the socio-economic realignment where old money saw art as an investment; whilst the emerging crop of nouveau riche, saw art as compositions to decorate their walls, adding colour to their drab homes, offices, and lives, but perhaps more importantly for them, the Bragging Rights, that came with an acclaimed acquisition. 

And let’s not forget that throughout this era,, we had some great collectors, Collectors such as the Matalon Family; the late Wallace Campbell whose collection was conservatively valued at Multi-Millions of US Dollars, after his passing; Michael Campbell (no relation to Wallace); the late Dr David Boxer, himself an extraordinarily talented artist Whose Collection upon his death raked in Millions of dollars through auction by his estate there was Hotelier Peter Fraser; the late Doritt Hutson and her companion, the Late Dr Paul Chen-Young; Ret. Hotelier Ned Wong; and numerous other collectors, who collected at a more low-keyed level, but like their bigger counterparts – Collected for the Love of Art, and or the love of Collecting. 

Today gallery pickings are meagre, and the obvious consequence of this is reduced exposure for the artists, reduced interest, in the industry, and blunted creativity, With the not-so-obvious downside being reduced commerce associated with the industry, such as loss of productive income for framers, frame makers, retailers of easels, paints, paint-brushes, and all the attendant supplies. 

And alongside this boom, were the many parties and Lymes that generated their own energy; stimulated commerce, and if allowed to die, can only spell the further decline of the economy. In this respect, the Prime Minister’s announcement of the Government’s intention to establish a new Museum in Port Royal is welcomed as it is thought, done properly,( like the model in Pompie Italy), can reinvigorate the Port Royal Community., as a major historical tourist attraction; and some say a complementary Art Gallery would be a clincher.

And others go even further in proposing a Historical Gallery/Museum, fashioned as a working slavery Plantation Museum/Gallery – Telling the Stories of Slaves, indentured servants, the arrival of the Indians and the emergence of the Maroons as a teaching module and historical marker with the potential, to increase national earnings as another attraction. The rationale being ‘Developed’ Countries have and continue to profit from their history, even the Colonials, why are we ashamed and afraid to capitalise on ours???[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Scroll to Top