Hervé Méhu, founder of famed art gallery, passes away at 74

The Haitian Times on the passing of Hervé Méhu, founder of Galerie Méhu in Haiti and Mehu Gallery in New York.

Obituary from the family of Hervé Méhu.

Hervé Méhu was born on May 1, 1947 in Port-au-Prince. His paternal family was from Cape Haitian and included the ancestor Hervé referred to as the Duc de Méhu, who may have been the juge de paix Mehu, one of the secretaries of King Henry Christophe.

Hervé studied with Dewitt Peters at the Centre d’Art in Port-au-Prince and, after Peters’ death in 1966, worked as an assistant to Francine Murat at the Centre d’Art where he began his career selling Haitian art. Hervé and Francine Murat (1918-2010) would continue a productive international collaboration for many decades.

In 1973, Hervé opened the first Galerie Méhu on the Avenue Panaméricaine in Pétion-Ville. From the outset, he specialized, rather than in the primitivist schools of painters sought by the tourists of the 1970s, in modern painters – such as Gesner Arman, Jacques Gabriel, Ronald Mevs, Emilio (“Simil”) Similcar, Tiga, and Patrick Vilaire – and in metal work by artists such as Murat Brierre, Gabriel Bien-Aimé, and Serge Jolimeau. Early on, he developed connections for exhibitions he promoted in Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C., requiring trips between Port-au-Prince and New York. In 1977, he opened the Carrefour-Méhu on 17th Street with Robert Maitland to exhibit contemporary Haitian artists in New York.

It was in 1977 when Carolyn Jarvis, with a close friend, made her first trip from Boston to Haiti. Carolyn had been advised, by Auderon Bratton (art collector and dealer of the Cinque Gallery in New York who was a friend of the painter Bernard Séjourné), to meet Hervé Méhu in Pétion-Ville. Méhu, with his daughter Marielle and son Sidney, soon moved to join Carolyn in New York where their daughter Stephanie was born. Hervé’s friend, the renowned Bossa Combo musician Raymond Cajuste was a witness to Hervé and Carolyn’s marriage in 1981.

The Mehu Gallery at 21 W. 100th Street in Manhattan opened on Palm Sunday in 1983. With its pressed-tin on the ceiling and one wall, and exposed brick on the facing wall, it was a retro-chic place ahead of its time. The gallery telephone number was as exclusively unique in Manhattan: ABC-DEFG (212-222-3334).

[. . .] For almost 40 years, the Mehu Gallery would remain a carrefour of artists, amateurs of art, and the many colorful characters who spent time in the gallery, from the neighbors of the Upper West Side and further south, to Harlem to the north (where the Mehu family settled) and beyond, notably from the African-American and Haitian community.

[. . .] Artwork exhibited in the gallery alternated between solo and collective exhibitions. The Mehu Gallery hosted memorable parties, not only for exhibition openings, but also when shows would close. Among the artists whose careers Hervé was proud to have launched were Francks François Décéus, Eddie Martelly, Jean-Moïse Gay, and Gérard (“Patat”) Lafontant. Not limited to African-American and Haitian artists, numerous other artists were featured in solo and collective exhibitions in the Mehu Gallery over the decades.

Presiding from his personal space at the back of the gallery, Hervé was the heart and soul of his space. It was a meeting place to stop by for a chat, a drink, and to share news. In the early years, prior to the gentrification of the Upper West Side, there remained a large Haitian community in the neighborhood; many would regularly gather at the Mehu Gallery on Saturday evenings, for example, to listen to “Eddy Publicité” on the radio during the twilight years of the Duvalier dictatorship. Poets, artists, intellectuals, street people, neighbors… the Mehu Gallery was a warm and welcoming space to share news with an extended community. [. . .]

For full article and photos, see https://haitiantimes.com/2022/02/18/herve-mehu-founder-of-famed-art-gallery-passes-away-at-74

One thought on “Hervé Méhu, founder of famed art gallery, passes away at 74

  1. My deepest condolences to Hervé’s family and loved ones. His was an incredible creative spirit; from discussions of form to curatorial possibilities, it always a joy to art marvel with him. Hervé was all-in, a master interpreter of metal, canvas and board.

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