The National Gallery of the Cayman Islands (NGCI), with support from Butterfield, is pleased to announce the launch of the third Cayman Islands Biennial, a tri-island multi-venue art project held every two years that seeks to highlight the latest developments in the contemporary art scene.
This year’s exhibition is organised under the title ‘Conversations with the Past—In the Present Tense’, inviting artists to respond to the ways in which history continues to shape our experiences in the present. Reflecting further on questions of personal and collective identity, the exhibition explores the multi-faceted nature of Caymanian culture from a variety of perspectives—foregrounding traditions that have endured to this day, as well as aspects of our heritage that have evolved over time. In turn, the featured artworks provide an illuminating portrait of our ever-changing society—initiating conversations around Caymanian history and its various social, political, and artistic legacies.
Following an open call for participation that was circulated to artists across the Cayman Islands and the Caymanian diaspora, NGCI received 136 submissions from 87 local artists. The final selection, shortlisted through a rigorous juried process, includes work by 57 local artists in a wide variety of media: from performance, photography, and video, to painting, ceramics, textiles, sculpture, site-specific works, AI-generated image making, and installation art. Participating artists include: James Adams, Diane Anglim, Babbity Barwick, John Bird, Luelan Bodden, Cameron Bridgeman, John Broad, Mark Chen, Kerri-Anne Chisholm, Randy Chollette, DALLE.E 2 (AI), Alan Darvill, Bryony Dixon, Angelica Dodds, Patrice Donalds-Morgan, Kerwin Ebanks, Kaitlyn Elphinstone, Kathryn Elphinstone, Samuel Etoh, Latoya Francis, Carlos Garcia, Alyssa Gilbert, Lana Gilyun, Teresa Grimes, Jamie Hahn, Cera-Tan Kennaird, John Reno Jackson,
Andre Jennings, Marc Laurenson, Pamela Kelly-Laurenson, Anthony Lawrence, Ian MacRae, Tansy Maki, Chris Mann, Linda McCann, Sarah McDougall, Bridget McPartland, Ena Isabel Miller de Selman, Rochelle Miller, Michael Mothen, Maia Muttoo, Isy Obi, Raphael Powery, Yonier Powery, Janine Scriven, Jeffry Sfeir, Elizabeth Paige Smith, Kay Smith, Gordon Solomon, Nasaria Suckoo Chollette, Larisa Sved, Scott Swing, Simon Tatum, Debbi Truchan, Avril Ward, Zhenya Xia, and John Gray High School students.
Given its expansive scale, this year’s biennial has been structured into three distinct sub-themes, providing a strong sense of stylistic and thematic coherence within each of the principal display spaces. These include ‘Identity and its Multiple Origins’, which is on view in the NGCI Dart Auditorium Community Gallery; ‘Sites of Memory’, which is presented in the Gallery’s Lower Exhibition Hall; and ‘Cultural Mythologies’, which is displayed within a modern annex space on the grounds of the CNCF Mind’s Eye Cultural Centre in South Sound. In keeping with the exhibition’s ambitious scope, artworks are being displayed at seven further locations across the Cayman Islands, drawing attention to the unique characteristics of the venues in which they appear. These include Owen Roberts International Airport, the Cayman Brac Museum, Cayman Brac Heritage House, the Little Cayman Museum, Gram Bella’s in Northside, John Gray High School, and Barker’s National Park.
“Artwork has been positioned at each venue based on both the sub-themes and the context of the location,” says Natalie Urquhart, NGCI’s Director and Chief Curator. “For example, at the newly renovated annex space at Mind’s Eye – home of Gladwyn ‘Miss Lassie’ Bush’s 140-year old wattle and daub cottage – the work on display engages with historical themes and subject matter, and demonstrates the profound influence of Cayman’s cultural heritage as an ongoing source of inspiration for our contemporary artists”. William Helfrecht, Collections Curator at the National Gallery, further emphasised the importance of such institutional partnerships, stating that “NGCI is grateful to each of the satellite hosts for helping to make the multi-site, decentralised vision of the biennial a reality”, adding that “the National Gallery is particularly excited to be collaborating with the Cayman Brac Museum, Cayman Brac Heritage House, and the Little Cayman Museum to help extend even greater access to our exhibitions and public programming in the Sister Islands”.
As with each recurring edition, the biennial includes the prestigious Bendel Hydes’ Award component, presented to the top selected artist, as well as an Emerging Artist Award for the most promising newcomer. Both awards have been selected by a jury comprising local and international arts professionals Leonard Dilbert, Davin Ebanks, and Lisa Howie. Taking place in mid-July, the biennial awards ceremony will also mark the launch of the 140-page accompanying exhibition catalogue, which includes essays, artwork images and biographies of all the participating artists, and will be on sale in NGCI’s gift shop later this month. The project is further supported by an extensive education programme of workshops, conversation circles
(hosted at historic venues across all three islands), late night opening events, and guided exhibition tours, which have been designed to provide developmental support for creative professionals, as well as opportunities for community members to engage with the project through a variety of settings and public platforms.
The 3rd Cayman Islands Biennial has once again been made possible through partnership with the inaugural biennial supporters, Butterfield Bank (Cayman) Limited. Speaking of their ongoing collaboration, Michael McWatt, Butterfield’s Managing Director, commented “as a committed supporter of the arts, Butterfield is pleased to be the lead sponsor of the Cayman Islands Biennial. Building upon the success of its predecessors, the exhibition highlights the remarkable ways local artists are engaging with topical subject matter, whilst also encouraging constructive dialogue within our community that is both stimulating and thought-provoking”.
The project is curated by Megan Arch, William Helfrecht, Daniela Granados Solis, and Natalie Urquhart, with the original selection committee comprising Davin Ebanks, Lisa Howie, and Natalie Urquhart. Additional support has been provided by the Ministry of Youth, Sports, Culture and Heritage, and participating venues. For a full list of all workshops, lectures and events running throughout the biennial, which is on view until 29 September, please visit https://www.nationalgallery.org.ky/whats-on/exhibitions/3rd-cayman-islands-biennial/ . To participate in the related school programme or book a tour, please email firstname.lastname@example.org .