Christina Leslie's Portraits

N.L.S., A New Local Space

Deborah Caroll Anzinger's artist run residency and exhibition space in Kingston


Leasho Johnson's Provocative Re-interpretation in 'Canopy Guild'

Light Sensitive

Marlon James' black and whites

Annalee Davis: ON THE MAP

Caribbean Political Documentary

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.