Letter from Haiti: The “Vives” Exhibition

Here are excerpts from Veerle Poupeye’s “Letter from Haiti: The Vives Exhibition at the Maison Dufort”—a review of “Vives,” which opened on Saturday January 15, and will be on view until February 13, 2022, at Maison Dufort (9, Rue du Travail (Bois Verna) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Centering on women artists, the exhibition was curated by Régine Cuzin, “a Paris-based independent curator, art historian, and art book editor who is best known for her work in and about the Francophone Caribbean.” [Visit Jamaica Monitor (1 January 2022) for complete article.]

[Régine] Cuzin’s best-known project is Haiti: Two Centuries of Artistic Creation (2014-2015), a 150-work survey of Haitian art history which she co-curated with the Haitian gallerist Mireille Pérodin Jerome and which was shown at the Grand Palais in Paris. During our shared time, it was evident that her involvement in Haitian art is deep and well-informed, and well-respected in Haiti. Her thoughtfully and imaginatively conceived exhibitions and writings transcend the troubling representational problems that have plagued that field, such as the reductive perception that the only part of Haitian art that matters is the so-called “naïve” school of self-taught painters and sculptors.

Régine Cuzin was in Haiti as the curator of the Vives exhibition, an exhibition of women’s art from the collections of Le Centre d’Art and the Musée d’Art Haitien. The exhibition was commissioned as part of the Quatre Chemins theatre festival, an annual event in Port-au-Prince, organized by the Haitian playwright, director and actor Guy Régis Junior, and was presented in association with Le Centre d’Art. The theme of this year’s festival, which was held in November 2021, was “Who is Against Equality?”, a pertinent and generative question in the current local and global environment. The accompanying art exhibition, Vives, was, for organizational reasons, postponed to January, and presented an interesting coda to the questions asked in the last year’s edition of the festival.

The recently closed Musée d’Art Haitien du College de St Pierre, a small museum in Port-au-Prince was established as a private initiative, with the support of Le Centre d’Art and other partners, and held some of the most iconic works of Haitian art. Conditions at the museum had deteriorated since the 2010 earthquake and the collection was recently handed over to Le Centre d’Art for safekeeping and conservation (there is an active conservation programme, with support from the Smithsonian and the École du Louvre). When Le Centre d’Art moves to its new, significantly expanded premises at the Maison Larsen in a few years, there will finally be space for permanent and temporary exhibitions that do justice to the breadth and depth of Haitian art history and, importantly, that are consistently available to audiences in Haiti. The Vives exhibition is, in fact, a first step towards establishing a regular exhibition programme with selections from the collections of Le Centre d’Art and the Musée d’Art Haitien, and a few loans from artists who have more recently been associated with Le Centre d’Art but who are not yet well represented in the collection.

Vives may not be the first exhibition of art by women artists in Haiti, but it may well be the first one to provide an historical overview of work by women artists who have been involved with Le Centre d’Art from the 1940s to the present. [. . .] 

This masculinist bias in the Haitian art world has been successfully challenged by contemporary artists such as Barbara Prézeau, Pascale Monnin, Mafalda Mondestin or Tessa Mars, who have gained significant local and international critical recognition. [. . .]

For full article, see https://www.jamaicamonitor.com/letter-haiti-vives-exhibition-maison-dufort-969

[Pascale Monnin – « Chuchotements » (detail, 2014). Photo credit: Veerle Poupeye.]

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