Art Museums in the Caribbean
Where to find historical visual art collections in Belize, the Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad &Tobago
Although most islands in the English-speaking Caribbean have cultural museums with artifacts that generally start with indigenous settlements through slavery, colonization and independence; there are few that capture the evolution of visual art, and less dedicated exclusively to the visual arts. Oneika Russell essay titled Key Moments in the Jamaican Art Scene: Development & History, describes for the most part, the evolution of visual art in the Caribbean. Today there are several mainly private galleries that play an important role in the development of contemporary art in the Caribbean. Here is a quick list of art museums worth visiting.
Museum of Belize
The Museum of Belize is an art and history museum located in Belize city. Housed in a historical building that initially served as a prison in the 1800s during British rule, the museum provides an inclusive history and learning experience of the country’s culture and history. It also claims to house a small collection of artworks by some of the country’s leading artists.
National Gallery of the Bahamas
The National Gallery of the Bahamas was opened in 1996 as part of a larger system of museums to record and preserve the country’s history and culture. The national gallery is housed in the historic Villa Doyle and centrally located in the capital city Nassau. It is the important hub for contemporary art in the Caribbean.
National Art Gallery of Barbados
Here is the National Art Gallery of Barbados description of its mission and purpose - The mission of the Barbados National Art Gallery (BNAG) is to provide dynamic, creative leadership in bringing visual arts to the people, to facilitate their discovery, understanding and enjoyment of the visual culture of Barbados and the wider Caribbean. BNAG builds, maintain, and exhibit a collection of art that documents the historical development during the 20th century. The museum carefully identifies the best examples of pioneer and modern artists; acquire and present contemporary work, to ensure the most important examples are in the national collection. BNAG also plays an active role in stimulating and encouraging a dynamic contemporary art activity. It is a focal point for public engagement, learning and enjoyment through exhibitions of the national collection, temporary exhibitions and educational programming and community outreach.
National Gallery of Art Guyana
Like several other Caribbean museums, the National Gallery of Art is housed in an historical building. The official website has an interesting account of the building, Castellani House, but no information on art. You will find it in the capital, Georgetown.
National Gallery of Jamaica
Unlike the most art museums the National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ) is housed in a contemporary building in downtown Kingston. It was established in 1974 and has a comprehensive collection of early, modern and contemporary art from Jamaica along with smaller Caribbean and international holdings. A significant part of its collections is on permanent view. The NGJ also has an active exhibition programme, which includes retrospectives of work by major Jamaican artists, thematic exhibitions, guest-curated exhibitions, touring exhibitions that originate outside of the island, and its flagship exhibition, the Jamaica Biennial.
Trinidad and Tobago National Museum and Art Gallery
The art museum houses artworks by leading local and international artists. It displays depictions of national festivals, Carnival, life during the World War II and artifacts from the country’s earliest settlers, the Amerindians. Apart from the art gallery, the Museum also houses a small gallery by famous nineteenth century artist Michel Jean Cazabon, and a small gallery on our carnival arts.