Are you feeling Art Art Art? — A case for investing in Caribbean Art

When you hear the world famous calypso “Feeling Hot Hot Hot”, instantly you identify with the Caribbean; its white sandy beaches, rum punch, swaying of hips, and an inevitable limbo. Lesser known, though equally engaging and far more complex, are the Caribbean people themselves and their art. We’re not talking about tourist art, but art rooted in a multi-dimensional history, and future perspective, that is shaping modern Caribbean society and its place in the universe.

If we look to the past, to Haitian-Puerto Rican Basquiat, whose contemporary works are valued in the multi millions, you might think he is the ‘North Star’ potential of artists in the region for innovation and influence. However, one can argue that some Caribbean artists today may have already crossed this bar.

Below are just a handful of current successful artists, each with a unique perspective, descending from the Caribbean.

Tavares Stracthan of the Bahamas, sent his sculpture to outer space. How cool is that? In 2018, Stracthan created a record breaking sculpture, ‘Enoch’, a tribute to Robert Henry Lawrence Jr., the first African American astronaut selected for any national space program. This project supported by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and SpaceX, included the tribute alongside its usual communications and observation satellite. His sculpture will orbit the world for 7 years!

Tavares Stratchan (Bahamas), 2017–2018, Enoch
          

2. Artist Mark King of Barbados, combines architecture, behavioral psychology, cognition and technology to produce the most captivating designs and forward thinking collaborations. Most recently, he has been leading innovation training sessions at the Tate Modern, London. We had the opportunity to sit with Mark to discuss his inspiration and vision, and were floored by his ability to observe, deconstruct, combine and create, using alternative media such as textiles.

A look from Enclothed Cognition, by Mark King (Barbados) and partner Bregje Cox (Netherlands)

3. Suchitra Mattai of Guyana weaves vintage saris into massive tapestries at the Sharjah Biennial. Her art explores difficult topics around immigration and borders, and always manifests into the most beautiful array of colors, wovens and other intricate multimedia. She is known to combine nostalgic found objects, embroidery, newspaper clippings and antique colonial prints into her works.

Suchitra Mattai (Guyana), Imperfect Isometry 2019, Commissioned for the Sharjah Biennial

An increasing focus on Caribbean Art Internationally

As the appetite for equality in gender and race representation in the global art market grows, we see corresponding growth in the attention given to Caribbean artists in exhibitions and galleries worldwide. Perhaps one of the most interactive and interdisciplinary of 2019 was the ‘Get up Stand Up Now — Generations of Black Creative Pioneers’ exhibition at the Somerset House in London. Curated by British-Trinidadian Zak Ové, this exhibition was a multi sensory experience of videos, music, photographs, paintings and more, from the Windrush period to now. The show featured 110 brilliant young artists in their generation and their genre.

Richard Mark Rawlins (Trinidad), ‘The True Crown’ from the series ‘I AM SUGAR’ 2018, Get up Stand Up Now Exhibition at the Somerset House
Paul Anthony Smith (Jamaica), ‘Kind of Blue’2018, Get up Stand Up Now Exhibition at the Somerset House

PAMM Museum in Miami ‘The Other Side of Now — Foresight in Contemporary Caribbean Art’ exhibition challenged Caribbean artists to envision the future for the Caribbean. Invited artists represented a wide range of islands including Puerto Rico, Curacao, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados. The show was curated by María Elena Ortiz, the associate curator at the PAMM, who is originally from Puerto Rico, as well as Trinidadian Dr. Marsha Pearce; Cultural Studies scholar based at the University of the West Indies.

Sheena Rose (Barbados), Prestigious 2019, The Other Side of Now Exhibition at PAMM
Deborah Jack (Saint Martin) Water between us remembers, so we wear our history on our skin, long for a sea-bath and hope the salt will cure what ails us, 2016. Digital color video. The Other Side of Now Exhibition at PAMM

A corresponding increase in Value

With increased international focus on art from the Caribbean region, coupled with the emergence of social media technology, artists are now able to reach a much wider audience. This garners interest, excitement and buzz around their unique points of view, and expressions. Islands which were deemed closed markets are now opening. With the increase in success of more mid-level and established artists (up to 50% year over year), we see continuous growth opportunities for emerging artists to follow suit, enabling a wide range of price points for all levels of investors.

Who should Invest?

While opportunities exist for all art lovers looking for a diverse perspective, meaningful connection, and economic gain, we do see the emergence of a new Collector segment; the Caribbean diaspora. Sizable, well-educated, and affluent (mostly through professional success), this demographic is largely interested in investing in its countries of origin. After real estate, which has its own challenges to non residents in the region, Art is the next viable option. This hunger to connect with their roots, own their history and secure a positive future for the region is evident. The recent and historic Art Gallery of Ontario acquisition of the Montgomery collection of Caribbean photographs, was fundraised largely by members of Toronto’s black and Caribbean communities. Through stimulation and development of the Caribbean diaspora as a Collector segment, we estimate not only emotional and financial gain potential, but a halo effect on the Caribbean society as a whole.

The Les Îles Platform

The Les Îles mission is to enhance the visibility of artists from the Caribbean region and its diaspora, bringing together on one platform, artists from the English, Spanish, French and Dutch speaking Caribbean. We are initiating a dedicated channel to facilitate this growing ecosystem of Caribbean artists and investors. Through this, we hope to stimulate awareness and development of a structured Art Economy in the region, one that generates value for artists, new and experienced collectors. To learn more about Caribbean artists, please visit us at www.lesiles.com, where we also encourage you to subscribe for updates! You can contact us at team@lesiles.com with any inquiries, comments or just to reach out!