Friday, February 15, 2008

State of the Arts: A Letter from Christopher Gonzalez

An example of Christopher Gonzalez's work from

When ART:Jamaica sent out its first e-newsletter in November 2007,we received a an email from Christopher Gonzalez, famed Jamaican artist, speaking about many timely issues within Jamaican contemporary art. I then assured Mr. Gonzalez that this blog was founded to promote the under-reperesented, whoever that may be. We do however focus on contemporary art as we want to help develop a culture once again of the same passion and openness that existed in the early days of the Jamaica School of Art in the Seventies. Mr. Gonzalez raises many issues which link to the history and nature of the way art has developed in this country. We welcome dialogue and invite you to engage in a discussion. His letter follows below.These views do not necessarily reflect the views of ART:Jamaica

What is contemporary Jamaican Art ? Is it a take off from the American Art contemporary , where any freaky cocaine Art is accepted ? How in the world can we be influenced by this " Bastard culture ", " This Commercial Harlot" Can someone tell me this ?
In what way can " timeshow design" assist the development of Art in Jamaica ? Will they lobby with the Government to establish a Policy to protect the Arts and the Artists, since they do not listen to us for years now? There is now an upsurge in the interest of the Arts and I wonder if it is really genuine and sincere, or they have awaken to the potencialy mega-earning power and want to rob and exploit the Artists again as they have done over the years.

The Great King Pin of NCB instead of supporting the Jamaican Artists , he supported the" Large" Kingston Art collector.......... making that collector more wealthy . I am one of the Artists he has exploited . Twenty years ago I wrote a letter expressing my disgust in his attitude to artists. He has not bought a piece of thumbnail sketch from me since.

The Artists are the ones needing support, not the wealthy Patrons ! His brother keeps sponsoring Artists under 40 years old . This has always been the way here in Jamaica, delete the older Artists and promote the young ! This is dreadfuly wrong ! I remember as a young Artist , they droped Alvin Marriot and gave me a public commission because they could exploit me in terms of price. The first real public commission I got was the portrait of William Gordon, they paid me $100.00 Jamaican. They could not pay Marriot that figure !

I saw the show , "Young Generation" I got a bit confused , since I felt I was somewhere in New York or California. The Art reflect absolutely no Caribbean flavour or feelings ! Someone in the Gallery, on the afternoon I visited , said , " Art is Universal" Yes ! I agree , but it should carry Identity ! Please do not misunderstand, I am all for experimentation and exploration in contemporary imagery. More than twenty years ago , I taught a class in Three dimensional
design at The Edna Manley college( at that time, The Jamaica school of arts ) it was all about experimentation , but not to the cost of identity ! Maybe, this is the way of the 21st century , delete all aspects of Nationality and Identity and become a non entity in the so called "Global Village".........................

We really need to look into this trend of ignoring the older Artists for the young, remember , the older Artists paved the way for these younger ones and they have suffered much exploitation and disrespect in the past and still experiencing . Why the "King" don't sponsor at the end of the year, a show for Artists over 50 years old and put up 1.5ml. as first prize ? Are we like old books that you put in the store room and take them out when you want to give them a token award ? The same thing will happen when these present young Artists reach over 40 or 50. This is wrong , wrong , wrong !

Another negative this does is to create division betwwen the young and older Artists , giving the younger ones the illusion that they are more progressive and the older ones nonprogressive, stagnant, not contemporary........The young Artists have never invited me to their show( one or two may do it) The Mutual life Gallery clearly told me , the Gallery do not invite Artists, it is left entirely up to the exhibiting Artist or Artists. Is this healthy ?
Best regards !

Sincerely ,
Christopher Gonzalez

Do you agree or disagree with this letter?; What has your experience been as an artist, collector or agent/dealer/curator/art lover etc.? What steps can we take to ensure inclusion for artists and their rights. Is it a collector-driven system and if so, how has it shaped the arts in Jamaica and what are its advantages and disadvantages.



  1. To certain extent, i am of the similar beliefs as Mr Gonzales. I believe that specialized attention should be paid to the older artists as they are the ones that have made it possible for the younger generation to have something to build upon. Had it not been for artists such as Mr Gonzales we would not be enjoying certain amenities that patrons, practitioners and prospectives thereof enjoy. Amenities such Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts and not to mention being afforded the oppertunity to sell one's art. Feel free to ignore the ones that have made all these wonderful oppertunities possible; feel free to ignore our history; feel free to ensure that when we reach fifty we are relegated to a point where we are regarded as not relevant. FEEL FREE TO DOME OUR OWN FUTURES!! Step up and respect the foundation; respect those that have done all and are still doing it.

    I do not consider myself to be an artists. I am a textile designer, fashion designer and a student of the Edna manley College. Solely on the premise of how artist are treated; i dont ever think that i will become a practicing artist. Greater consideration must be placed on the well being of our artists; especially the the more experienced ones. From this point onwards i will refrain from referring to these artists as older artists but insted call them what they are, 'experienced artists'.

    We need to take care of our astists and give to them what it is that that they deserve.

  2. O'Dwyane WilsonMarch 12, 2008 at 4:34 PM

    to be an artist is be a whore...ok
    old whores dont exactly get alot of clients. especialy selF-righteous ones. the reason is greed. art was always a comodity that powers that be see it a product to be sold or aquired.ever wondered why artist in thepast never get their full due till they are dead. because they powers that be would be have to share with artist. of course it more advance now . we dont just sell the art well an image(of the artist). And the kig pings of this world can't get enough.but we the art community must ask our selves do we need the money of people who try to short change us and see as commodities to be exploited. but then again this jamaica :(

  3. Greetings!

    I am driven to laughter, shock and disbelief after reading The Honourable Christopher Gonzales's letter.

    First to say; there is no such ideology, politics, genre, style or technique called JAMAICAN ART.

    What would someone born in Jamaica Living in Africa or Germany produce? JamAmMany ART? I think not!

    It is time that those purporting the donkey with a rider be Jamaica Art be given to higher consciousness and understand the premise and principles of art creation. Art creation is NOT landMass specific nor is it culturally contained. The act of Art creation is a singular personal, sometimes nomadic process or being didactic or symbolic using any language suitable to speak to a wide world audience.

    Thus, to say Art is Jamaican is like saying THIS IS BLACK ART, or in the case of some Jamaicans, THIS IS BROWN SKINNED ART; utter nonsense!

    With regard to his statement about the promotion of younger art above older artists, Honourable Gonzales is being unfair and bias.
    I ask, why did he as a young artist not reject the commission he was awarded for 100$, if he saw it as unjust? Many young artist today would do it!

    Has he ever enquired how many young artist were driven to teach or find other jobs because their work was pushed to the dump because of older artists like himself? Examine all the art shops from Kingston to Montego Bay; the majority of works on their walls belong to Honourable Gonzales. The young artist cannot get a foot in because of them, and they will also threaten to remove their works if certain young artist are given entry.

    In recent time, the universe has had to illuminate several older artists in order for the remaining older ones to see the they are mortals and when they are gone none will be left in the inventory.

    Older artist are so occupied with themselves that they force students to create works in their image and likeness, so that their work can live-on in the consciousness of the young. That, I call spiritual artistic hijacking, and should be a criminal offence.

    I am a friend of the Honourable Gonzales, and I have a great deal of regard for him, however, I find this letter, hypocritical and misleading. If one has lived a fruitful life and happy with self, one should open his heart gates and allow the expression of new souls. Again this letter is unfair and unwarranted.


Thanks for taking the time to leave your thoughts.