Davidoff Expands its Art Initiative with a Residency in the Dominican Republic
By PAUL LASTER, APR. 2015
Supporting contemporary art in the Caribbean, the Davidoff Art Initiative recently inaugurated it newly constructed artist residency in the Dominican Republic, where it produces most of its best cigars.
An associate partner of Art Basel at its global locations, the Swiss luxury tobacco company has been aiding artists at residencies in New York, Berlin and Beijing; producing art dialogues on the creative landscape of the Caribbean and Latin America; and providing grants to cultural organizations in the region since 2013.
Over the course of six days, Davidoff introduced visitors to its production process (from plantation to factory) and the art centers in Santiago, Casa de Campos and Santo Domingo, along with a first look at the artists in their studios.
Designed by Dominican architect Adolfo Despradel, who had worked with the acclaimed David Chipperfield Architects prior to starting his own practice, the residency is beautifully situated in the campus of Altos de Chavón School of Design in La Romana, where it provides comfortable, well-lit studios for five international artists over three-month periods.
“We built the residency in the art production quadrant of the Altos de Chavón, in a garden that wasn’t being utilized,” Despradel, told us. “We rendered the outside of the building in brick and artisanal plaster and kept the modern elements on the inside. Light and space were our primary concerns. The studios are designed so that artists can work with all types of materials and their rooms open up to create an exhibition space, which curators can use to organize shows.”
The first round of lucky artists featured Alia Farid (b. 1985, Kuwait/Puerto Rico), Nuria Montiel (b. 1982, Mexico City), Cathleen Mooses (b. 1982, Chicago), Mathilde Rosier (b. 1973, Paris) and Soledad Salamé (b. 1954, Santiago, Chile). They were selected by an international committee of contemporary art experts, including Aaron Cezar, director of London’s Delfina Foundation, and Philip Tinari, director of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing.
Connecting to the culture of the island, the artists made work that utilized local materials or explored Caribbean customs and beliefs. Farid researched the history of carnival for costume designs that she’s making for a play in Kuwait. Montiel and her partner Diego Espinosa made indigenous percussion instruments (known as the güira) from found materials and collected posters from the local bands that use these sound devices.
Mooses made stencils from fences in the community, which she then printed on glass in the colors of local buildings. Rosier, meanwhile, continued her research into altered states of consciousness found in Caribbean voodoo and Santeria thru symbolic ground drawings and works on paper that figurate the trance state. And, finally, Salamé made prints based on a media antenna that she found in a junkyard and communicated with locals via a CB radio.
An excellent endeavor, the Davidoff Art Initiative has already assisted a dozen artists in realizing their dreams and started a dialogue between the creative community of the Dominican Republic and the international art world that will undoubtedly continue to flourish. WM
Paul Laster is a writer, editor, curator, artist and lecturer. He’s a contributing editor at ArtAsiaPacific and Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art and writer for Time Out New York, Harper’s Bazaar Arabia, Galerie Magazine, Sculpture, Art & Object, Cultured, Architectural Digest, Garage, Surface, Ocula, Observer, ArtPulse, Conceptual Fine Arts and Glasstire. He was the founding editor of Artkrush, started The Daily Beast’s art section, and was art editor of Russell Simmons’ OneWorld Magazine, as well as a curator at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, now MoMA PS1.
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