By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
WHILE the local market for Bahamian art work is still relatively small but “growing”, the National Art Gallery’s director said there was the potential for “exponential growth outside these borders”.
Amanda Coulson told Tribune Business that Baha Mar’s decision to incorporate local art work into its offering could provide the “springboard” the industry needs.
The $3.5 billion luxury resort recently named Bahamian artist John Cox as its creative arts director, solidifying its commitment to the extensive use of Bahamian art as a component of the guest experience.
Ms Coulson told Tribune Business: “I’m thrilled that a major resort development like Baha Mar would chose to incorporate local art. One of the concepts they have been discussing with us is to organise an artist and residence studio there, because we get a lot of tourists who come to the gallery who think we are a selling gallery, which we are not; we are a museum.
“They say they want to buy some art and want to know where they can go. It’s not that easy to find the actual artist. There are a few art galleries popping up now, but there is an opportunity for Bahamian artists to make their work in that environment and interact with visitors. I think that is really fantastic, and will give a lot of opportunities to Bahamian artists. Studio space is difficult to come by here because it’s very expensive. I think it’s exciting that visitors will be confronted by art work made by Bahamians.”
Mr Coulson added: “When people think Bahamas, art isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. They think of gambling, night life and beaches. I think many visitors will go back with art and culture on their minds, and that will enlarge the image of the Bahamas to the world, so that people start to think of the Bahamas as a cultural destination.
“The market here in the Bahamas for local art is still quite small but it is growing. I think art is becoming something much more normal for people to think about having in their homes. It’s definitely a growing market here, but it’s still a young market. I think the potential for Bahamian art to grow exponentially, moving outside our borders, is huge because I think we have phenomenal world class talent here. It’s just that people don’t know about it.”
As the creative arts director, Mr Cox will oversee the resort’s Art Gallery, which will showcase the largest collection of Bahamian art in the country. Bahamian art, some of which is expected to be produced in on-site artist studios, will also be featured in public spaces and in the guest rooms.
Denise Godreau, Baha Mar’s chief marketing officer, told Tribune Business that incorporating art into the resort’s offering would feed the appetite of affluent international visitors.
“If you think about the growth of the art fairs around the world, and Art Basel in Miami, for example, and how it’s grown in the last 10 years and the last six years, it’s a clear indicator of how this consumer segment is basically interested in incorporating art a part of their vacation travel,” Ms Godreau said.
“They want to make it a part of their vacation experience. It’s an important part of how to be relevant to that audience.”
During the recent Art Basel Miami, Baha Mar co-sponsored ‘Art of The Party’, an event hosted by Niche Media and leading Miami Beach publication, Ocean Drive Magazine, where Mr Cox’s art work was exclusively exhibited.
Ms Godreau said that while a full marketing campaign had not yet been rolled-out, a targeted effort was being undertaken with positive results thus far.
“It’s early for us to be fully marketing Baha Mar because we’re still not open for reservations, so our strategy right now has been more targeted,” she said.
“We have been doing a series of special events. We invite certain members of the travel industry or meeting planners, key people that are influential to the media, to see Baha Mar, the construction and the progress. We have been amazed and pleased with the feedback that we get from these audiences.”
Ms Godreau said Baha Mar was receiving strong responses to its 307 luxury residences offering. “We have gotten a very strong response. We are mostly marketing in international markets and we have found that our best audiences come through many of the wealth managers,” she added.
“People are looking at the residences but are looking at them as an investment, mostly as a way of gaining a second or third place to have a residence.”