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Nagb Director Bringing New Markets For Bahamian Art

Amanda Coulson

Amanda Coulson

By ALESHA CADET

Tribune Features Reporter

AS THE new director of the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB), Amanda Coulson plans to stimulate a market for Bahamian art home and abroad. With 20 years of management experience, Ms Coulson said she plans to use her expertise and her networks to expose Bahamian art to the global marketplace.

Prior to her appointment, Ms Coulson and her husband worked in New York and Switzerland co-founding their own contemporary art fairs.

"There are plenty of artists working here already that don't need any further lessons in their artistic practice; it's more a question of developing both a marketplace here at home and teaching them how to market themselves so that they can make a living by their practice," said Ms Coulson.

"There is not a single commercial art gallery here that can represent Bahamian artists at an international art fair, where many galleries from more out of the way countries or regions do most of their annual business. The major international marketplace for art is the USA or Germany, both of which have the largest collector bases, and which Bahamian artists are not, as yet reaching," she said.

Regions like South America have a very sophisticated system of galleries, biennials and fairs, said Ms Coulson.

Just North of the marine border, she said 60,000 people from all over the globe visit Art Basel Miami Beach every year. She said even given the Bahamas' proximity, it was unfortunate that none of those visitors come to the Bahamas after the event to experience the local art scene.

While she was born in the United States, Ms Coulson who inherited her Bahamian connection through her father. While away, Ms Coulson said she felt disconnected from her native soil, and was glad to return home.

Since taking up her post, she said the NAGB has already sent out catalogues to other institutions globally to showcase the available art in the Bahamas.

"I am inviting many curators to come visit, just offering them my guest room since there's a no real program for that yet, to do studio visits so they can curate our Bahamian artists into shows," said Ms Coulson

Praising the efforts of former director Erica James, Ms Coulson said the bar was set high with consistent and high quality shows. Ms Coulson's vision is to be more inclusive, opening the gallery to a wider audience. The gallery will now open on Sundays starting February, from noon to 4pm.

"That is a day when after Church families have time to visit. Unfortunately so many things here are geared towards tourists, but for us Bahamians with jobs all week long, we need more time to go do these things," said Ms Coulson.

"While we'll continue to put up scholarly shows, single artist retrospectives and such, I am reopening the upstairs gallery to allow for more range and hopefully to have more of the permanent collection on show more often with groups of Bahamian artists," she said.

Ms Coulson's relationship with the gallery goes as far back as 2006, when she worked along with Ms James on an international exhibition called the "Funky Nassau Project."

Staged at both the NAGB and the celebrated Nassauischer Kunstverein in Wiesbaden, Germany, the exhibition garnered great international press for the nine participating Bahamian artists: John Beadle, Dionne Benjamin-Smith, Lillian Blades, John Cox, Blue Curry, Michael Patrick Edwards, Antonius Roberts, Heino Schmid and Clive Stuart.

"Dr James was a fabulous partner and really did a lot on this end to pull the show off. I'm sure that without her input we wouldn't have managed to have brought all the artists over to Germany that we did. It was an honor and a pleasure to work with her and she has left some large shoes for me to fill," said Ms Coulson.

The first exhibition to open under Ms Coulson's direction will showcases Junkanoo costumes for the first time ever at the gallery.

"As We Knew Him", a Tribute to Jackson Burnside by one Family Junkanoo group will open Friday.

"I hope this will send a message that the gallery is for all Bahamians, from all walks of life, to come and enjoy creativity of all kinds," she said.

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