A somber note
The D’Aguilar Art Foundation quietly opened its latest exhibition, a rich and riveting body of Haitian art, on January 12, in memory of the earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince a year ago.
To view the works within the show is to be reminded that, among the immeasurable loss the country suffered, were the deaths of artists and the destruction of countless pieces of artwork.
Somber yet soulful, the exhibition pays homage to those artists.
“I just wanted to evoke that serious, thought-provoking spirit that you can get from looking at these paintings,”said Saskia D’Aguilar, director of the D’Aguilar Art Foundation and curator of the show.
In the serious nature of the show D’Aguilar also sees an”innocence.”The works, a collection within the Foundation’s Collection, feature a range of Haitian art that includes the work of such well-known intuitive artists as Andre Pierre, Gerard Valcin, S. E. Boitex and Wilson Bigaud.
Though many of the exhibition’s paintings were collected long before the earthquake, D’Aguilar wondered about the impact of such a disaster on an artist’s ability to produce such works in the
“That naïve, primitive work has that innocence, and then all of a sudden you have a tragedy like this and your innocence…do you ever get that back?”she said.
Perhaps the most significant of the recorded losses of artwork due to the earthquake was the destruction of the Nader Art Collection. The private Collection comprised 15,000 pieces acquired by Georges Nader and his family since 1966.
Although the Collection had been feared beyond rescue, a Jan. 13, 2011 English language online report by China Network Television(CNTN)said that Georges Nader Jr. had been working with the Smithsonian Institute at a conservation center in Port-au-Prince to restore salvaged works.
The site quoted Nader as saying that 14,000 works had been saved.
D’Aguilar said that she had been struck by the magnitude of the initial loss.
“I think that just really struck a chord with me here it is we lost this incredible wealth of art,”she said. Meanwhile the sudden loss inspired her to continue in efforts to properly document the extensive D’Aguilar Collection.
Known for its impressive Collection of Bahamian art, the D’Aguilar Art Foundation also holds a significant amount of Haitian art. The Foundation’s Collection is a reflection of the interests of the late Vincent D’Aguilar, who had been a patron of the arts and enthusiastic collector during his lifetime. His family established the Foundation in his honor after he passed away in 2008.
Vincent D’Aguilar began collecting Haitian art in 1992. Saskia D’Aguilar said that her father-in-law’s interest had sprung from his research of the family’s roots. Allan Benjamin, his wife Marina’s father was from Haiti, and had served as the Haitian Consul in The Bahamas from the beginning of World War II.
“Being so interested in his own cultural heritage, looking at all of his roots, he also was very interested in Marina’s side of the family, and this is what initially led to him buying just a handful of Haitian paintings,”she said.
D’Aguilar collected Haitian art from, among other places, the Ute Stebich Gallery in Boston and the Nader Gallery in Haiti. The show features two of the first pieces he collected: works by celebrated artists George Liautaud and Robert St. Brice. Both artists were born in the 1890s, pointing to the lengthy history of Haitian art.
“The artist community in Haiti has been so strong,”said Saskia D’Aguilar.”There is tremendous depth in that community.”
D’Aguilar hopes that the exhibition will also remind viewers of Haiti’s plight and encourage them to support the country as it works to rebuild.
“Haiti One Year Later: The Progress to Date and the Path Forward,”a Jan. 12, 2011 report from the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, indicates that such support is still needed.
“One year after the earthquake in Haiti, the damage is still fresh. Tent camps and uncleared rubble are reminders of the tremendous reconstruction tasks that remain, and the cholera outbreak and Hurricane Tomas have exposed the fragility of recovery,”it reported.
Yet the report anticipates progress, with a list of goals for 2011 that includes removing more debris, relocating victims to safe housing, increasing access to potable water and constructing more hospitals and clinics, among other things.
D’Aguilar saw a similar glimmer of hope in one of the show’s paintings a piece by Favrange Valcin, the nephew of Gerard Valcin, entitled”Vibrations of the Cross.”
“It’s filled with a kind of a luminescence,”she said of the painting.
“We pray that Haiti does eventually recover.”
The exhibition is open to the public by appointment. Call 357 9263 to arrange a viewing.