A year-long development will finally come to fruition next month at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB). On Saturday, October 24, the NAGB will celebrate the opening of R. Brent Malone: Reincarnation – a retrospective exhibition featuring more than 200 paintings, drawings, prints and sculptural pieces by legendary Bahamian artist Brent Malone.
The show is curated by Dr. Erica James, former NAGB director and current assistant professor in Yale University’s department of art history and African American studies. Entitled R. Brent Malone: Reincarnation, the exhibition will tell the story of an art evolution alongside the ebbs and flows Malone experienced over the course of his career.
“Brent Malone played a pivotal role in the development of art, not only as an artist but in terms of institutions. He was an institution builder. He had a really good idea of what it would take – a kind of interdisciplinary, multi-institutional approach – to build a community, and he was very much dedicated to that,” explained James. “I think his life is something that we all should know more about, and not only his skills but the kind of work he did as an artist for the community. We always say Jackson Burnside used to talk about how much he loved The Bahamas. I think we could say that about Brent Malone as well.”
Known for being one of the first serious Bahamian artists to paint Junkanoo, Malone emerged out of the famed Chelsea Pottery era and helped to transform the landscape of artistic production in The Bahamas during his lifetime. He founded and operated six galleries, helped start the FINCO summer arts program and advocated fiercely for a national museum, national art gallery and art school. As one of the country’s first successful art businesspersons, his memory and legacy live on through his works and mentees, who include artists like Antonius Roberts, Blue Curry and Peggy Hering.
James is well acquainted with Malone’s works and life history. Pieces in the exhibition have been sourced from collections throughout The Bahamas and overseas. The earliest work is one that was completed when Malone was just a 13-year-old boy, in 1954. Paintings from 2004, just before he died, will complete the final body of work that tells a comprehensive story of most of his lifetime and career.
“We’re getting a lot of works from private homes that went into those homes when they were sold in the 70s and 80s that haven’t been seen in 20 or 30 years,” said NAGB Director Amanda Coulson. “We’re also getting artwork in from institutions that bought Brent Malone pieces, like the National Art Gallery of Jamaica. His works are coming in from as far away as Ireland, the Isle of Man and Canada. Dr. James has done intensive research and we’re repatriating Bahamian art that will be on display for the Bahamian public, so I’m excited about that too. I think Brent Malone holds a really crucial place in the history of Bahamian art. We’ll be able to see what he did and how he was so instrumental in the blossoming of our art scene.”
The extensive exhibition will occupy all of the gallery’s spaces, including the permanent exhibition level. For James, who researched far and wide to contact private collectors, the show tells a story of a multidimensional Bahamian history. Upholding her understanding of Bahamian culture as one that is complex, James believes Malone conveyed this through his works as well.
“This show has been partly a labor of love and partly because I believe in Bahamian art history and a need to tell these stories. I think it’s time for Bahamians to really understand the depth and complexity of their own history. Bahamian culture and identity may not be something that can be articulated in precise ways because it is a prismatic identity. It’s not singular, and we need to understand the complexity of that. I think Brent Malone had a sense of that, and he worked to reveal that,” she said.
R. Brent Malone: Reincarnation opens at 6 p.m. on Saturday, October 24. The show will be on display until April 2016. The public is invited to the opening ceremony and reminding that the NAGB is free for locals every Sunday. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday, and noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays.
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