Fundraising auction of Haitian art tests the water
Piasa’s dedicated sale will benefit island’s Le Centre d’art which was decimated in 2010 earthquake27th July 2017 22:00 GMT
Later this year, Piasa will auction Haitian artworks from the collection of Le Centre d’art in Port au Prince to raise funds for the institution, which was destroyed by the earthquake that hit the island in 2010. Art From Haiti (19 October) is the first such sale to be held by the Parisian auctioneer, known for its themed sales experimenting with niche areas of the art and design market. It includes almost 100 works, dating from the 1940s to the present day, collected by the Centre since it was established in 1944 by the American painter DeWitt Peters as “a cradle for Haitian art”; the Centre was founded with the aim of finding, training and promoting Haitian artists while also “laying the foundations for an art market in Haiti”.
Given the island’s geographical isolation, internationally Haitian art is a relatively untapped market level, although the major exhibition Haïti: Deux Siècles de Création Artistique at Paris’ Grand Palais in 2014 did much to raise its profile. Nottingham Contemporary in the UK also held a show in 2012 in the wake of the earthquake, entitled Kafou: Haiti, Art and Vodou, which began with the Centre d'art’s work in the 1940s, notably Hector Hyppolite, perhaps the island’s best known artist. Works by several Haitian artists, including Wilson Bigaud and Georges Liautaud, are also in the collelction of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, but from a market perspective a whole auction of Haitian art is an unknown quantity.
However, Christophe Person, PIASA’s head of development and strategy, thinks “the sheer variety of Haitian art echoes that of Art Brut and African contemporary art, both of which exert tremendous appeal on the Western art market.” Among the 60 artists in the sale are Rigaud Benoit, Georges Liautaud, Edouard Duval-Carrié, Frantz Zéphirin, Luce Turnier and Marie-Hélène Cauvin, with estimates ranging from the low four figures to around €35,000.
Le Centre d’art remained closed for four years following the earthquake but re-opened in 2014, in a “temporary layout”, with the aid of the Fondation Daniel & Nina Carasso—established in 2010 in memory of Danone founder Daniel Carasso and his wife Nina—and the Fondation Connaissance & Liberté (FOKAL). The Piasa sale is also held in conjunction with both foundations, alongside the Fondation pour le Rayonnement de l'Art Haïtien. Funds raised from the sale will, says a Piasa spokesperson, help to create a new project and continue to support Haitian artists.
“The Centre d'Art has, in the past, attracted cultural luminaries from André Breton to the [late] movie-maker Jonathan Demme, via the Rockefellers and Jackie Kennedy,” said Axelle Liautaud, présidente du Conseil d'administration du Centre d'art, “We hope this sale will attract new collectors by giving them the opportunity to acquire quality works rarely available outside Haiti.”