Nearly ten years in the making, three of New York's museums have delivered a remarkable, unprecedented and groundbreaking exhibition, which is taking place simultaneously across each of the respective establishments.
Organised by El Museo del Barrio in association with the Queens Museum of Modern Art and the Studio Museum in Harlem, Caribbean: Crossroads of the World is a seminal show that delves deep into the history of the islands, exploring four centuries worth of art.
It's evident from the outset that the decade long commitment to research and scholarship that underpins this magnanimous exhibition has been performed to the highest standards, perfectly shaping a colourful, informative and erudite narrative of a vibrant region of the world.
Diminutive in size, dwarfed as it is by the Americas, the love affair with the Caribbean is nevertheless global; a postcard destination that people dream about, a vision of beauty that seduces us with utopian dreams. This show is thus reflective of the empyrean world of the islands, composed as it is of artwork created on its golden shores.
This brings us to a distinct observation: Crossroads of the World isn't solely based on work that has come out of the island. It also critiques, appreciates and understands European, American, Asian and African art that has been inspired by the otherworldly magic of the Caribbean. And that is just the tip of it.
"We’ve employed a polyphonic perspective to deal with a huge archipelago that is as diverse and complex as New York City, which is, to many, the largest Caribbean city," project director Elvis Fuentes explained further.
"For the first time ever, this project will examine the impact of Africa, south-east Asia and Europe on the visual culture of the Caribbean, including painters that were part of the Impressionists and Surrealists in France, to homegrown schools recovering popular traditions and developing original styles."
In total, 500 works of art are on show across the three museums, spanning mediums including painting, sculpture, photography and film. Complementing these engaging, diverse and probing works of art are books, prints and historical artefacts that have been expertly arranged around the establishments.
The creative forces behind the work include – out of a total of 379 artists – Janine Antoni, David Bade, Myrna Baez, Isaac Mendes Belisario, Tony Capellan, Sandra Eleta, Paul Gauguin, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, May Henriquez, Winslow Homer, Wifredo Lam, Hugo Larson, Mark Latamie, Jacob Lawrence and Marcel Pinas.
Visitors to any of the museums will be pleased to learn that purchasing a ticket to the show will see them presented with a "Caribbean Passport", giving them free admission to the other establishments. It's the icing on the cake, for the comprehensive collaboration, though wonderfully curated by all three parties, is best experienced in its totality.
Caribbean: Crossroads of the World is on until October 21st at the Studio Museum of Modern Art, and until January 6th at El Museo de Barrio and the Queens Museum of Modern Art.
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