When you think of the tropical Cayman Islands, it’s probably the balmy Caribbean Sea, pristine white beaches and endless supply of five-star hotel options that spring to mind. However, there is far more to this tiny island nation than its idyllic landscapes and luxurious attractions. It’s also home to some pretty unique culture, especially when it comes to art. From gallery displays and outdoor installations to shops that sell handmade local crafts, we take a look at the vibrant art scene on the main island of Grand Cayman.
The pinnacle of Grand Cayman’s art world has to be its National Gallery. Located off Esterley Tibbets Highway, in between Camana Bay and Seven Mile Beach, it’s a quiet haven fringed by a small but beautiful sculpture garden. Inside the gallery itself, visiting exhibitions from both local and international artists take up the ground floor while the area above is home to more permanent showcases. Colourful island scenery and nautical motifs are the focus of many of the paintings on display, while unique sculptures with thought-provoking environmental themes deign to make an impact. Cayman National Gallery additionally has an on-site café with outdoor seating, plus a great gift shop where you can purchase original prints, art books and painting supplies.
For one of the largest collections of original local artwork on Grand Cayman, take a trip to the Kennedy Gallery. From oil paintings and prints of the country’s iconic tropical locales to unusual sculptures and handcrafted gift cards and calendars, there’s plenty to feast your eyes on. The Kennedy Gallery also has a large selection of Cuban art to purchase that highlights the country’s tradition of bold tones and mixed-media materials.
Nestled down a residential street in Old Man Bay, Davinoff’s Sculpture Garden is a must-see if you’re visiting the East End during your time in Grand Cayman. Set up by David Quasius in the back garden of his holiday home in 2010, it’s now a fully-fledged park with sand flooring, exotic foliage and 18 bespoke super-sized sculptures. All the creations have been crafted by Quasius himself out of concrete and usually take on the form of an animal, from a huge octopus to a life-size Cuban Crocodile.
Whether you’re staying at the glitzy hotel or just spending the day along Seven Mile Beach, the Bridge Gallery inside the Ritz-Carlton is deserving of a view. It’s found in the walkway that connects the two sides of the hotel and is full of Caymanian arts and crafts. The exhibits change regularly but always showcase up and coming pieces from local talent.
For art that merges with nature and conservation, check out the Blue Dragon Trail. Made up of over a dozen oversized painted sculptures of Blue Iguanas, it’s a project that was commissioned in 2005 by the National Trust to help support the preservation of the native and endangered species.
All of the eye-catching sculptures were designed by different local artists and are scattered at popular locations across the island including Camana Bay, the National Gallery, Smith’s Cove and Governor’s Beach.
One of the highest points on the mostly flat Grand Cayman is the Observation Tower at Camana Bay. The swanky shopping and restaurant development is easily reachable via the bridge that links it to Seven Mile Beach, and its tower is well worth ascending for wonderful panoramic views of the ocean, George Town and beyond. On your way up the meandering staircase, you’ll be able to soak up some spectacular artwork in the form of a stunning ocean-themed mural complete with bright shoals of fish, turtles and other local marine life. It’s crafted out of over three million Venetian glass tiles and took the best part of a year to create.
An accomplished diver, restauranteur and a supporter of vital marine research and conservation, Guy Harvey is somewhat of a local celebrity in the Cayman Islands. His talent also stretches into the art world thanks to his popular gallery and shop that sits across the road from George Town harbour. The venue opened over a decade ago and is essential for fans of wildlife art and photography. Rainbow coloured tiles depicting under the sea scenes are inspired by Harvey’s own diving adventures, while vibrant canvas prints showcase colourful indigenous birds and botanicals.
If you’re looking for somewhere to buy high-quality creative souvenirs for yourself or friends back home, look no further than Pure Art. Located in a picturesque traditional wooden house halfway between George Town and Smith’s Cove, it’s a locally-owned gift shop that’s packed with arty treasures. As well as an entire room dedicated to prints, canvases and illustrations created by local and visiting artists, the shop also has plenty of other creative gifts on offer, from jewellery crafted out of lionfish fins to soy candles with island-inspired scents such as banana, coconut and rum cake.
Both budding and professional photographers will be in their element at this venue located inside Sunset House Hotel that doubles up as both a shop and a must-see gallery. Browse the displays in the Underwater Photo Gallery for some inspiration and memorable souvenir options before checking out the variety of cameras and other photography equipment available to buy at duty-free prices. Owner Cathy Church and her team of talented photographers also offer specialist courses and workshops on land and under the sea.