As visitors trickle into the islands of The Bahamas once again, renowned mixed-media artist and Baha Mar Creative Art Director John Cox is feeling positive about the reopening of the resort, which includes The Current Gallery and Art Center.
Prior to Baha Mar’s official reopening to the public on December 17, after an extended period of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cox explained: “It’s like a measured enthusiasm that I have. I don’t expect it to just go from zero to 100, but I am happy that it seems like there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
Since its opening in 2017, Baha Mar has been recognized by many for its artistic brilliance, showcased in myriad spaces across the 1,000-acre resort complex.
Cox was tasked with overseeing the curation of the entire property before construction of the luxury resort ever began.
“As far back as when Baha Mar was starting, the original Baha Mar with Sarkis Izmirlian, the idea was to really populate it with Bahamian art as much as possible,” Cox said.
“We were given the task to satisfy all of these moments for art around the property, whether it be in public spaces, private spaces, all of the hotels like the Grand Hyatt and SLS and Rosewood…”
Cox admitted, “It’s a big undertaking.”
The Baha Mar resort complex encompasses a total of roughly 2,400 rooms.
“So, when you think about it in the grand scheme of things, we probably have just under 2,000 rooms completely filled with Bahamian art,” he said.
Cox recalled that when Baha Mar officials approached him years back with the request to curate the entire property, he was intrigued by the grandiose project.
“But I didn’t think it was, like, literal. It literally meant everywhere— so, we did that,” he said.
Today, there are various avenues of art experiences for visitors to immerse themselves in at Baha Mar.
The Current Gallery and Art Center, led by Cox himself, is comprised of a commercial gallery, a retail space, and a studio and educational component all located in one grand fluid area.
“The Current itself is down in the rotunda, which is the central part of the property,” Cox noted.
He explained that this is where most, if not all, of Baha Mar’s art operations take place.
“We sell work, we do classes in here, everything from something as lighthearted as a pick and paint all the way to people taking printmaking classes and finger drawing and different things like that,” Cox said.
All the work inside of the commercial gallery is available for purchase, both in person and online.
“We exhibit artists that have the reputation and the commercial and high market value, but we really try to cater to all different kinds of demographics,” Cox explained.
Interestingly enough, Cox said that over the last two years, it’s been mostly Bahamians (as opposed to visitors) who have supported The Current Gallery through purchasing the showcased artwork.
Part of this is due to the unique curatorial service that the Art Center offers.
“We have a curatorial service that we do where we’ll bring work to you and curate your space, your office or your home,” Cox said.
The Fairwind Exhibition is a fixed exhibit, which means the showcased artwork does not change.
“The Fairwind Exhibition in the convention center is curated more like a museum-style show,” Cox explained.
“That’s a great, great asset, I think.”
The artwork featured in Fairwind demonstrates over 150 years of Bahamian art practices and styles — dating back to the the early-1800s and leading up to today.
Local art collector Dawn Davies loaned the great majority of the artwork that makes up Fairwind, works created by mostly Bahamian-born artists in addition to expatriate artists who were in the country working at the time of curation.
“The Fairwind is probably the biggest single exhibition in the country and maybe even in the Caribbean,” Cox noted.
This is due to the sheer magnitude of the space.
Cox pointed out that the pre-function area of the convention center is 30,000 square feet— “which is probably five times as big as The National Art Gallery”.
Looking ahead, as the Bahamian government slowly reopens the country, Cox is optimistic about the future of art at Baha Mar.
“It’s a very slow, kind of calculated reopening,” Cox said of Baha Mar’s trajectory to return to normalcy.
“With this vaccine and other things, it feels like we’re slowly seeing that we can come out of this.”