February 5, 2008
What the new year bodes for Haitian art is anyone’s guess. But from the expert opinion of two people in Haiti, both of them in the art business, the outlook isn’t good. To protect their identities, I won’t reveal their names because their communication was personal.
Each person bemoaned to me the abundance of fakes in the marketplace. Even more sad is the knowing collaboration of U.S. dealers in this deception, which dilutes the value of the originals. Tiga, the renowned painter, died a little more than a year ago and is already being copied in Haiti and sold to unsuspecting buyers. Another problem is the absence of a strong tourist base going to Haiti with the purpose of buying art. A new generation of collectors needs to start travelling to the island to buoy up the market. But the persistence of political instability and kidnappings scare off even the most intrepid travellers, myself included.
Too many people are selling bad Haitian art, as seen commonly in neighboring Dominican Republic and as sold on Ebay, unfortunately. Haitians don’t support their own artistic output is another complaint voiced by my insider. As a result of all these things, the prices for Haitian art has gone down. A Hector Hyppolite which used to sell for $40,000 now goes for $25,000. One respected dealer said he actually lost money for participating in the International Caribbean Art Fair held in New York City in November.
While painting is experiencing a low point in Haiti, sculptors and Vodou flag makers are on a wonderful high, creating works of surpassing creativity according to one Haitian art dealer. There are still buyers for Haitian art in Haiti, largely from the well-paid expatriate community looking for souvenirs to take back home after their service in Haiti.
Just as in the floundering real estate market in the U.S., there are bargains to be had in Haitian art. So in spite of all this negative reportage, the long-term outlook for Haitian art remains positive, if not radiant. Discoveries will be made of new and original artists doing things never seen before in Haitian art. Savvy collectors will start spending now in anticipation that their wise choices in art will increase in value eventually. The worth of the art is less monetary than intrinsic within its aesthetic parameters and the reputations of the artists. If an Andre Pierre painting is under-valued now, think what a work by the foremost artist painting the loa of the Vodou pantheon might be worth in 2018 or beyond?
The time to buy for sharp-eyed collectors on a budget is now. My advice is to buy in multiples and negotiate a lower price with a reputable dealer. Consider the source before making a purchase, so as to authenticate the originality of your artwork. Haitian art is indisputably the best art in the world and if the world’s a little slow in recognizing this fact, you stand to be on the cutting edge of a future trend. Buy now and enjoy Haitian art.