Mutual Gallery closes one chapter and opens another?

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Inside the Mutual Gallery during its closing period

For ten years The Mutual Gallery built its reputation as the most prestigious of Contemporary Art Galleries in Kingston. It was much like Jamaica's own White Cube or Gagosian Gallery. Many graduates from the Fine Art programme at The Edna Manley College of the Visual & Performing Arts, continually tested out their creative ideas via exhibition there. Artists who we made contact with continually repeated the same sentiment about The Mutual being the first place they debuted as a career artist. I can’t say this as I first exhibited at Gallery Pegasus with a group of colleagues from the Painting Department while still in my third year at the art college. It was controversial for students to be exhibiting in public at this time but we had it in mind that this was practice for the day when we could actually exhibit at The Mutual Gallery. This wasn’t by accident as The Mutual’s curator/ director, Gilou Bauer, over the period organized several shows which enabled the public and art students to see what the contemporary art scene was like.

Some of the works displayed for a closing auction

Over the years The Mutual organized various exhibition series, art competitions, talks and opening events that provided a haven for young and practicing artists searching for a receptive space for their work. The closure of The Mutual undoubtedly came as a shock for local artists all over. Rumours of it spread on Facebook and via email with July being the last month its doors were open tot he public. Though the closure was said to be due to changes in the arrangements between The Gallery and The Mutual Group administration, it is deeply unfortunate that some agreements could not have been reached to keep this institution going.

A corner of The Gallery exhibiting the work of The Intuitives
With this closure, the question has been asked of Bauer perhaps more times than can be counted: ‘What is next?’ The speed at which the closing and final arrangements had to be made have undoubtedly left little time to consider the future of The Mutual. It presents a unique opportunity for reinvention as well as new initiatives and offshoots. Maybe The Mutual’s model was not as adaptable to this new harsh economic climate in Jamaica which leaves collectors more hesitant than ever about purchasing art and companies less willing to be philanthropic. There are however other ways that the art market and system can evolve to suit these changes. What seems sure is that new initiatives may need to be techno-savvy, world-culture connected, and employ inventive and alternative initiatives. With new arts spaces like NLS and Roktowa in Kingston, commercial galleries in Kingston could be taking new directions. What directions do you think the art gallery in Jamaica should take to be more sustainable?