October 27, 2020

Gallery to close then reborn in January


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The new $2m gallery on Esterley Tibbetts Highway

The National Gallery will close its Harbour Place doors forever next Thursday, after a gala evening auction of the works now on display in the final exhibition ever staged at that venue.

Amid the ensuing quiet, the personnel, the offices, all the records and paperwork of years, all the equipment, the furniture and everything else will be packed into crates and moved away.

And then, in late January, the National Gallery will finally come of age, reopening in an Even-More-Gala 28 January ceremony, throwing open the doors to its new $2 million two-storey, two-building purpose-built, 9,000-square-foot home just around the back of the Harquail Theatre, accessed by a fresh driveway on the Esterley Tibbetts Highway, near the Lawrence Boulevard roundabout.

Bright, spacious and boasting outdoor gardens designed by Camana Bay’s Sandy Urquhart, and artist/horticulturist/writer/landscaper Margaret Barwick, on four acres of land donated by theatre benefactor Helen Harquail. The new National Gallery building hopes to be a community resource, offering classroom education, an art studio, a library, rotating exhibits on the ground floor, multi-media facilities and a permanent exhibition of Cayman’s best-known artists in the upper gallery.

“The building is now completed and the contractors have moved out. The fitting out and the work of us fitting in can start,” said Julia Goulden, head of development and administration at the gallery, which broke ground on the sleek, new, Danny Owen-designed structure only in January this year.

Although fund-raising, she said, actually started more than a decade ago, in 1999, the private donations and modest government aid only reached their culmination in the last couple of years, finally reaching completion only in the last couple of weeks.

“The upper gallery will feature a permanent exhibition of 120 paintings in the national collection,” Ms Goulden said, aware that most people do not realise Cayman even has a ”national collection”.

The exhibition will feature such names as Miss Lassie, Charles Long, Wray Banker, April Bending, Joanne Sibley, David Bridgeman, John Broad and Janet Walker, she said.

Downstairs, the lower gallery will offer rotating exhibits every three months, displaying aspiring Caymanian artists, new names such as Davin Ebanks, and modern, exploratory work.

Tours — self-guided, school and visitors — will be offered. “Take A Look” exhibits will provide cultural context for selected works, and mutli-media work will be displayed.

“We want to represent all the arts and push the envelope a little,” Ms Goulden said. “This is not just a pace to sell, but a place to be shown
as well.”

The second building of the complex, the Education Centre, houses the 50-seat Dart Auditorium, open for films, lectures and private gatherings such as business conferences, social functions and community presentations.

Also included is the Susan Olde Art Studio, offering working space for students and visitors and outreach classes for anyone interested. The Maples Library, the largest arts collection in Cayman, boasts research and computer facilities and a lending function for National Gallery members.

Julia Goulden, head of development and administration

“And it’s all topped off by the landscaped grounds,” Ms Goulden said, featuring shaded areas, benches, a nature trail with native trees and shrubs, an events area for weddings and other gatherings and the Deutsche Bank Sculpture Garden.

National Gallery founders Carol Owen — artist and wife of former Cayman Governor John Owen – and Leslie Bigelman will attend the 28 January opening, but next week’s Thursday invitation-only closing will be marked with an auction of the 22 original works now on exhibit, helping to fund the final phase of the Esterley Tibbetts move.

“Cayman’s best-known artists all contributed, 100%, their work to this,” Ms Goulden said. “It’s very special and well-worth it. There is some very strong work, something for everyone. It’s varied and very popular.”

Oh, and the new gallery, she said, boasts parking for 50, and is the first public building in Cayman designed with ramps and lifts for the disabled.



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