Conservators Resurrect Haitian Art
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
From the murals of the Episcopal Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port-au-Prince to the thousands of paintings and sculptures in the Nader Museum of Fine Art, much of Haiti’s cultural heritage was destroyed or buried in the January 12 earthquake. In a rescue effort organized by the Smithsonian Institution, American art conservators are helping Haitians salvage their art.
As the New York Times reports, a group including curators, engineers and planning experts from the Smithsonian have been combing museums and churches, trying to assess the damage caused to the country’s art treasures.
“It is a race against time,” said Axelle Liautaud, a board member at the capital’s Centre d’Art told The National. “Many of the pieces are damaged – some are extremely damaged. We’re just getting everything that we can reach and we’ll decide later what can be restored.”
In June, the Smithsonian Institution will open a center where American conservators will provide equipment and expertise to Haitian staff members to repair torn paintings, shattered sculptures and other works pulled from destroyed museums and churches. Andy Warhol’s protégé Jean-Michel Basquiat and voodoo priest Hector Hyppolite are among Haiti’s artistic alumni.
Three federal agencies and the Broadway League, the trade group for theater owners and producers, have put up funds for the project. Smithsonian officials say the Haitian art effort will cost $2 million to $3 million over the next year and a half, after which the center is expected to be turned over to the Haitian government.