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A breath of fresh air
“The art world needs a breath of new air,” said Wesley Kanhai, the 25-year-old instigator and administrator of the new Art 6 Gallery in St Clair, Port-of-Spain.
The question of how to support creatives and sell art remains a concern around the world. Debates revolve around exploring or abandoning brick-and-mortar gallery models in a climate of rising operating costs and the allure of the Internet as an alternative space for connecting artists and audiences.
Kanhai is a graduate of the UWI visual arts certificate programme and an experienced designer—having worked for roughly a decade on an array of residential and commercial interiors with Brian MacFarlane and Roger Myers. He offers the local market an approach to art with an attention to bridging divides.
The new gallery is a response to a power play associated with space. It is the product of “the outrage of a young artist trying to do his stuff,” said Kanhai, “trying to get out there, yet being turned down because everywhere is booked. The market is also structured in a way where it is about who knows who.”
Art 6 Gallery launched early in January with work by six artists: Kenwyn Crichlow and Jackie Hinkson, both identified in the exhibit as “highlighted artists,” Michelle Boyd and Michelle Tappin, labelled “established artist and Esther Griffith and Kanhai deemed “emerging artists.” How the categories of an iconic, established and emerging practitioner are defined is often a slippery endeavour but the idea of showing these three classifications in one group exhibition is a model Kanhai plans to hold for future curatorial efforts.
While the gallery will be open to solo shows, Kanhai remains committed to thinking about and making connections: “A solo show of art by an emerging or established artist could be the prequel to a show of iconic works,” he said.
This effort at blurring boundary lines is also found in his desire to give greater prominence to art forms not found as staples in local galleries. “Art 6 is a place where photography and film can develop and be respected more in a gallery setting,” he said.
Kanhai’s vision is one of transcending a tendency to understand the visual, sonic and olfactory arts as silos. The gallery brings visual works into dialogue with the gentle babble of water fountains, the aroma of lit candles,and sound piped through speakers. Kanhai has also partnered with Con Brio furniture and home accents shop to include benches, tables and other components in order to add to a multidimensional experience of art.
This idea of relationships is heightened by the fact that audiences must walk through the gallery to enter Ambrosia, a new café offering a range of options from vegan and vegetarian meals to grass-fed beef dishes and gluten, soy-and-dairy-free servings. A beauty bar is also expected to open next to the gallery.
This proximity of other business operations invites thought on how to build audiences for art-feeding into global conversations about art institutions and audience engagement.
Education programmes will also be linked with the gallery. Classes are planned for the on-site courtyard. “The classes will heavily work on the CXC syllabus,” Kanhai said.
Keeping the idea of interconnectedness in mind, Kanhai is also tying the physical gallery space with the digital arena. The initiative called 3x300 (which is still in development) will be an online feature of Art 6 and, according to Kanhai, will be an avenue for bringing emerging artists and emerging collectors together.
Art 6 is a beautiful gallery-skylight included—with a capacity to host what Kanhai refers to as a standing collection. “Works not sold will float around the building,” he said. Yet, as with all new ventures, there are aspects that will require further consideration.
While the gallery has been established to run with a credo of inclusiveness, that is, with “a belief that everyone should be able to afford, collect, learn and live with art,” there is an air of class tension that cannot be ignored.
He is working on creating an online presence that is democratic and accessible but there is still the digital divide as a challenge to the gallery’s notion of “everyone”. When asked about the potential exclusivity of the space, Kanhai responded: “Our doors are open to you to make that first step.”
• Art 6 Gallery is located at 6 Scott Street, St Clair, Port-of-Spain. Its Living With Art exhibition closed yesterday. • More info: Email: [email protected] or 220-2786.
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