Today I finally got the opportunity to go and view the NCF Crop Over Visual Arts Festival 2016 held at the Central Bank of Barbados. I was disappointed in the number of pieces on show compared to last year, the quality of some of the pieces, the absence of many of big name artistes. I am a collector of art and was accompanied by my best friend who happens to be one of the biggest art collectors on the island, he was also terribly disappointed.
Among the pieces on show, I was very impressed with a couple of the paintings, unfortunately, only one of those pieces was among the selections recognized. I was very disappointed in the painting that won the top award this year in comparison to three or four of the other paintings on show. Yes the artist’s theme for the painting was excellent, but a lot of the perspectives in the painting were off, especially with the hands and feet.
As I recall, this same artist won last year and I had some issues as well as many of the other artists. All the artists are mumbling and grumbling under their breath, as usual that is a Bajan thing, grumble and be afraid to speak out. In the mean while the problem remains. As I see it, and others, this artist in question is employed by the NCF in some form as an art tutor. If this is the case, it is a conflict of interest and the artist should not have been allowed to enter the competition and vie for any of the awards. The NCF could have allowed him to exhibit his work as a guest artist but not as a competitor.
From all the grumbling among the artist, I now understand why there is drop off in the number of artist entering the competition over the years and the big names not coming forward to enter? Also, one could see why a number of up and coming artist, who you would want to enter, not coming forward, because of this conflict of interest. One would think that the objective of such a competition would be to encourage and inspire artist to get involved in the arts and provide that outlet for their work to be seen.
As I recall, the previous two years, the person that won the award for the Best Sculpture also worked for the NCF, which was another case of conflict of interest. I guess that either common sense or conscience probably stop that artist from competing this year.
One has to question why the NCF would allow these persons to enter the competition. It is widely known that companies here and worldwide do not allow their employees or their families to enter any competition that they have for the general public. Right away, the other artists that are participating will feel that some form of partiality among the judges will play a part in their decisions. I am not saying that this is the case in this instance but this is Barbados and it is who you know, where you went to school, where you live, and who are your parents!