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Haiti may be known for its blissful beaches, palm-fringed coves and cascading golden sands, but to get a real taste of the Caribbean culture here, take a look at the art. Creative and visually captivating interpretations of scenery and tradition are found in abundance through drawings, paintings and sculptures, and are a colorful celebration of everything that makes this piece of paradise what it is.
Peruse the art galleries on your trip to Haiti and be taken on a vibrant artistic adventure through a range of mediums and art forms; here’s our guide to 7 of the best.
Galerie Monnin, which has been around for about 70 years, was founded by Mr and Mrs Monnin, who came from Switzerland to settle in Haiti in 1947. The Swiss heritage of the owners influenced the artwork here and so the establishment exhibits a wealth of both Haitian and European pieces, with current artists in residence including artists from Switzerland, England, Canada and Greece. Ownership of the gallery has changed hands several times over the years, and it has featured a wide variety of art during this time, including a notable exhibit of sacred voudou art. The gallery continues to enjoy popularity in Haiti, and has represented the country on a number of international artistic occasions, including at the Global Woman Summit in Chile in 2009.
Watch out for: an art gallery with European influences that specializes in cultural Haitian art
MUPANAH, also known as the Musée du Panthéon National Haitien, is the national museum of Haiti which showcases many unique cultural artefacts of Caribbean history. Charmingly, this small museum, a gallery featuring painters from the 1940-1990s, is also almost entirely located underground. One particularly interesting find here is the 13-feet-tall anchor from Columbus’ ship, the Santa María, a vessel which crashed near the modern city of Cap-Haïtien. It also contains chains of slavery, torture instruments and ancient sculptures. With regards to canvas art, the museum houses many paintings illustrating Haitian culture at many different points in history.
Watch out for: a small museum with alot of content, full of Caribbean history, and featuring a pretty garden area
Address and telephone number: Avenue de la République, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, +509 29 43 5194
Expressions Art Gallery makes it their mission to serve both locals and international visitors, to help all customers in their quest to learn more about Haitian art. The gallery displays work from well-known Haitian painters, as well as from independent, emerging local artists who represent the grassroots art culture in Haiti. Started by a couple who wanted to blend their love of art and business, this gallery is one of the most extensive in Haiti, and the pieces here are colorful, creative and engaging.
Watch out for: a gallery that integrates local and international art in its collection
Address and telephone number: 55, rue Metellus, Petion-Ville, Haiti, +509 36 02 0222
Galerie d’art Nader opened in 1966, and has since been a cornerstone for the local art scene in both Port-au-Prince and Petion-Ville. Throughout its long history, the gallery has attempted to portray a united Haitian culture despite the tension which has arisen periodically throughout time. This collection is now considered the largest of Haitian art in the world, and includes over 17,000 amazing artworks. Out of this large collection, the family has carefully selected around 1,000 paintings of great historical value from the most renowned Haitian artists to exhibit in a National Art Museum, a venue which they plan to build in collaboration with the public sector.
Watch out for: a gallery renowned as the largest collection of Haitian art in the world
Address and telephone number: 50 Rue Gregoire, Petion-Ville, Haiti, +509 3709-0222
Galerie Marassa exhibits the best of both specifically Haitian, and greater Caribbean art. What began as a place where a Haitian native, who was educated in Europe, came to paint, has since transformed into an arena for traditional artwork which has attracted the attention of many international galleries and venues. Galerie Marassa presently specializes in the avant-garde side of Caribbean art, straying from standard Haitian color palettes and historical subjects, and focusing on abstract paintings of bright colors and indecipherable figures. This gallery proves to be an enjoyable exercise in art appreciation, and offers a completely new way to experience Haitian culture.
Watch out for: an eccentric and modern representation of Caribbean art
Address and telephone number: 17, Pétion-Ville, Haiti, +509 22 57 1967
El-Saieh Gallery exhibits a varied collection of traditional Haitian art, and is located in Port-au-Prince, idyllically set on a hillside overlooking the port. Being located in the heart of the city, it boasts easy access for international travelers looking to acquire new collection pieces during their travels. This intimate venue is packed with paintings exhibiting styles and features incorporating impressionist portraits and surrealist settings, and will surely satisfy anyone looking for a classic representation of Haitian art. In the large entrance hall are stacks of small canvases depicting everyday scenes worth $20 or $30, and on the walls and piled on shelves in the main gallery are also many works by more established contemporary artists. The gallery was founded in the 1950s by Issa El-Saieh, previously a prominent figure in the Haitian cultural scene. During the 1940s and 50s he led a big band which created a new school in Haitian music. The band played a mixture of Haitian, jazz and Afro-Cuban music, and cut a number of records on Issa’s own label, named La Belle Créole.
Watch out for: a Haitian art gallery ideally located in Port-au-Prince, and founded by a man of artistic prominence
Address and telephone number: Rue de Chilli, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, +509 34 27 7797
If you want to experience a true taste of the powerful culture of Haiti, stray from the galleries and look to the street, as the art found here is enthralling, whether it be in the form of small original pieces from market vendors, or symbolized in bold protest graffiti. Often in marketplaces and crowded, tense cities like Port-au-Prince, the urban art embodies the political and social voices of those living in the area. The street art here is a fantastic way to explore the worries and concerns of the people of Haiti, as through color and symbolism it illustrates how people are really feeling.
Watch out for: powerful street art in market areas and the popular streets of Haiti
Address and telephone number: N/A