ART: Caribbean: Crossroads of the World Exhibitions

Arnaldo Roche-Rabell, We Have to Dream in Blue, El Museo del Barrio


El Museo del Barrio in conjunction with the Queens Museum of Art and The Studio Museum in Harlem have teamed up to create the most extensive exhibition of Caribbean culture to date. More than seven years in the making, with more than 500 works of art spanning four centuries, 3 gallery spaces and various events, it will be a project in itself planning what to dig into first from the Crossroads of the World shows around NYC.


Karsten Moran for The New York Times

One of the questions the exhibition attempts to define is the geography of the region. You can locate the Caribean Sea on a map, but as Holland Cotter in a recent New York Times article puts it, “Are Florida and Colombia as much part of it as Cuba? Is there a Caribbean culture, and how do you define it, given the mix of African, Asian, European and indigenous elements that blend, in quite different proportions, on some three dozen islands in the region?” A question that, as a person of Dominican decent, I often struggle with myself. Do the people of the Greater Antilles (Cuba, Hispanola, and Puerto Rico) share more of a common culture, beyond language, with it’s Latin American or Caribbean counterparts? But this exhibition deals with bigger questions, like the region’s relationship to the rest of the world, questions of race, social status, oppression, religion, and other topics.

Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson Jean-Baptiste Belley, c.1797 The Art Institute of Chicago

The exhibition is broken into six parts. Counterpoints focuses on the economic development from the plantation system to modern times, and it’s effect on the region. Patriot Acts explores the African, Native, and European people’s influence on one another’s cultures. Fluid Motions looks at the the geographical impact on a region made up of islands and coastal areas, and how European empires collided there for commercial routes and power. Kingdoms of this World concentrates on the development of music, visual arts, and the Carnival. Shades of History makes us think about race and its relevance to the history and visual culture of the Caribbean. And Land of the Outlaw explores the ideas of  the Caribbean as paradise and places of sin, as their description puts it,”from pirates and zombies to dictators and drug smugglers that are now part of global popular culture.”

Rachelle Mozman, Las Damas, Collection El Museo del Barrio, NY

The shows include works by renowned masters Camile ‘Papa’ Pissarro, Paul Gaugin, and William Blake. I look forward to attending the seemingly endless amount of diverse content. There’s plenty of time to take it all in, as the exhibitions run through December. Aya nos veremos mi gente, meaning: We’ll see each other there, my people. Or should I say ourselves?

Enrique Grau, Mulata Cartagenera, Museo Nacional de Colombia

Admission and location information can be found here.