SHORT HISTORY OF THE NATIONAL ART FAIR
The Nationale Kunstbeurs (National Art Fair) was held for the first time in 1965 and was organized by a committee of art lovers of all sectors of society. The fair took place in the Palmentuin (Palm Garden) in the center of Paramaribo. The first chairman of this committee was mr Richard (Dick) A. de Keyzer.
In 2023 the National Art Fair exists 58 years and is still managed by a board comprised of art lovers.
In the early years the fair was an open-air exhibition in the Palm Garden and therefore very sensitive to weather conditions. In 1969 the Nationale Kunstbeurs (NK) officially became Stichting de Nationale Kunstbeurs (Foundation the National Art Fair) and moved to “Ons Erf”, a training facility of the Catholic Church.
During the 1970s the board was able to organize the fair every year. This was very important as the National Art Fair gave both advanced artists and beginning artists the opportunity to present their most recent visual artwork to the Surinamese public.
The National Art Fair became an event that gave the visual artists a podium to shine but also an event that everybody was looking forward to. It was a success. Even in those early years the National Art Fair already became an international exhibition giving visual artists from the region also the opportunity to participate.
At the end of the 1970s there was an interruption in the annual regularity of the exhibitions, which, due to the difficult social circumstances of the 1980s, lasted until 1988.
THE 80’S: RESUME ON INITIATIVE OF ROTARY CLUB PARAMARIBO
In 1988, the Rotary Club Paramaribo celebrated its 35th anniversary. The Rotary board led by Henri Guda wanted to initiate some extraordinary events in order to make that 35th anniversary special and rememberable.
The initiative to make a new start with the National Art Fair came from Rotary members Jozef Brahim and Leonard Johanns who both already had shown their appreciation for visual arts in many ways. Nardi Johanns became part of the board of the National Art Fair and later chairman of the board for many years. Because of all his tireless work he has been appointed honorary chairman.
Jozef Brahim, CEO of De Surinaamsche Bank NV, mobilized the financial support of the business community and started the build up of a wonderful art collection for De Surinaamsche Bank NV. This collection consists of over 300 paintings and sculptures mostly bought at The National Art Fair. Both the National Art Fair and the visual artists were supported in this way.
It was also decided, on the initiative of Paul Woei, to publish a printed catalogue. In these catalogues the artists were presented alongside their artwork as well as essays or articles relating to the Visual Arts in Suriname. The catalogues became collectors items but in later years because of the financial costs the production was stopped.
In 1991, again due to social circumstances, no NK was organized. From 1992 onwards, a NK has always been organized every year.
The National Art Fair has expanded its objectives with the strengthening of the visual arts in Suriname, the support of the visual artists and the stimulation of the curiosity and the knowledge of visual arts amongst the youth.
As a result, a market of connoisseurs and enthusiasts was created for the artists, who were willing to buy works of art, which made a certain professionalism possible among the artists. These objectives of Rotary and the NK have come into their own fairly well. Because younger artists were given the opportunity to exhibit alongside older, more experienced professional brothers, they were able to learn from the elderly and improve their own performance qualitatively. The annual character makes it possible to follow the young talents and see them grow into full-fledged artists.
An important facet is the involvement of education. For many years during the morning hours, the expo was open for students. It was delighted to see the interest of many students. In the higher classes the students were obligated to carry out research and theses assignments. This approach by the schools has a good influence on the artistic education of our youth and is an aspect that is consciously pursued by our Foundation and by the schools. Through this approach, the support of the Ministry of Education, and the initiative of individual teachers, an expert audience has emerged over the years that appreciates the value of art production, especially that of one’s own country. Our Foundation can therefore state with satisfaction that several young Surinamese have now built up an international reputation as a Visual Artist, which is an absolute must.
THE 21st CENTURY
As of 2013 “Ons Erf” was no longer available and the National Art Fair had to find an accommodation every year as there is, unfortunately, no “national center of modern arts” that could host this event. The past few years, again with help of the business community, the Foundation managed to find a suitable place every year and to organize the Art Fair. We modestly say with a certain amount of success looking at the enthusiastic participation of visual artists and with around 15.000 visitors yearly.
The foundation has stimulated the participation of international visual artists. The participation out of the region is somewhat easier of course, but the fair is open for visual artists from anywhere. The influence of Surinamese artists on other artists and vice versa will benefit, in our opinion, everybody.
Due to COVID-19 when it wasn’t safe to organize a physical Art Fair, we had to speed up our efforts to organize a virtual Art Fair. We went digital and called this the “Suriname International Art Fair” (SIAF by the NK) which is also open for international artists. You can find information on the participating artists, and you can see the artworks.
We hope that you will visit us every week as there will be various pieces of art which are interesting and almost make it necessary to see it more than once. Lastly, as usual all the art that is exhibited is in principle for sale. You can express interest in any work of art that interests you and we will gladly give you any information needed and help you along. A piece of art gives you joy and is a sound investment!
We appreciate your feedback and comments.
Enjoy our fourth edition of SIAF, Suriname International Art Fair by Stichting Nationale Kunstbeurs
Michel Brahim, chairman of the board
Juan Pawiroredjo, vice chairman
Roger Hogenboom, treasurer
Barbara Mac Intosch, secretary