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Haitian artworks restored to pristine condition on view at Tampa Museum of Art

Painting of Black parishoners exiting yellow chuach building.  Oil on Masonite. 24 x 24 inches. T
Tampa Museum of Art, Gift of the Arthur Albrecht Revocable Trust.
Wilson Bigaud (Haitian, 1931 - 2010), Wedding Scene, 1973. Oil on Masonite. 24 x 24 inches. The exhibit includes paintings by the first generation of artists to train at Le Centre d ’ Art, Haiti ’ s premier art school in Port - au - Prince,  

Florida has the largest Haitian population in the country. The Tampa Museum of Art had been collecting Haitian objects for more than 20 years and is considered one of the more prominent holders of Caribbean art in the United States.

Florida has the largest Haitian population in the country. The Tampa Museum of Art had been collecting Haitian objects for more than 20 years and is considered one of the more prominent holders of Caribbean art in the United States.

The Tampa Museum of Art is considered one of the more prominent holders of Caribbean art in the United States.

Bank of America recently gave the museum a grant from itsArts Conservation Projectto help restore some of their most historically significant artifacts – 75 Haitian art pieces, ranging from paintings to tapestries, as part of the museum’s Albrecht Collection.

In 2022, the Arthur Albrecht Revocable Trust giftedthe Tampa Museum of Art the collection of 20th-century masterworks. 

Albrecht was an avid collector with a deep love for Haiti. He lived with this collection in his home in San Francisco until his death in 2018.

Painting of Haitian goddess by Andre Pierre. Oil on canvas. 37 x 26 inches. Tampa Museum of Art, Gift of the Arthur Albrecht Revocable Trust
Tampa Museum of Art, Gift of the Arthur Albrecht Revocable Trust
Andre Pierre (Haitian, b. 1914), Erzulie , 1973. Oil on canvas. 37 x 26 inches.

Although much of his connection to Haiti and its artists is unknown, his collecting interests focused primarily on the first- and second-generation artists associated with the Centre d’Art, Haiti’s premier art school and visual art center. The collection had not previously been shown in public and was in need of care and conservation. 

Joanna Robotham, The Tampa Museum of Art’s Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, says Reframing Haitian Art pushes against the traditional norms of a museum show.

Some of the paintings are hung lower than expected, giving the viewer a chance to practically step inside the work. 

"So, it’s almost like you are entering the creative mind of the Haitian artists, having much more of an intimate experience,” Robotham said. “And some of the other paintings, which depict vodou gods, are hung a little bit higher, which represent those gods are respected at a higher level than us mortals." 

Robotham says the artists in the exhibit were influenced by the bright colors of Caribbean life. But those colors had been diminished over the years until the restoration effort allowed them to be returned to nearly original condition. 

Museum gallery with visitors and bright blue walls
Tampa Museum of Art. Photography by Paige Boscia.
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Courtesy

The Tampa Museum of Art has one of the largest holdings of Haitian art in the United States. 

Because the museum has such a large number of excellent works of art from their neighbor to the south, visitors as well as the many transplanted Haitians in the region, can admire Haiti’s complex history through art, Robotham said. 

"This show gives some attention to an island country that's in a lot of need for help right now and deserves to be in the forefront of people's minds," she said.

On view now as well are Haitian artworks from the Kay and Roderick Heller Collection. In 2000, Kay Heller co-curated the first exhibition of Haitian art at the Tampa Museum of Art entitled Island Delights: The Spirit and Passion of Haitian Art.

The exhibits were guest curated by Edouard Duval Carrié, a contemporary artist and curator based in Miami and born and raised in Haiti. 

Reframing Haitian Art is on view through June 23 at the Tampa Museum of Art.

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