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Jamaican artists getting raw deal - Fox-Mould: Local artists are getting a raw deal.
published: Saturday | October 20, 2007

Garth Sanguinetti, master goldsmith and head of applied arts at the Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts. - Winston Sill/Freelance Photographer

According to Sharon Fox-Mould, president of the Jamaica Guild of Artists, due to the set-up of the industry, many local artisans do not sufficiently benefit financially from their craft. She said that after all the costs are extracted - including payments to dealers and hoteliers - an artist at the end of the day gets only a fraction of what he deserves for his work.

"When the breakdown happens, the artist gets less than one fifth of the amount of money the piece is sold for," she said.

Fox-Mould was speaking during a Gleaner Editor's Forum held Thursday at the newspaper's North Street office in Kingston.

"The creator gets the least amount. If I send a painting to the north coast, the hotel gets 30 per cent, the dealer gets 30 per cent, the costs come out and then I get what's left," said Fox-Mould.

"So sometimes what has taken an artist six, eight weeks to produce, couldn't pay one bill," she added.

Fox-Mould suggested that it might be more feasible for artists to form an alliance where the hotels deal directly with the artists, rather than going through a dealer. Getting rid of the middle men, she reasons, would cut costs.

substandard pieces

Another point that was raised at the forum was that Jamaican creations and artists are often passed up for substandard pieces from abroad. These imported pieces are sometimes showcased in local hotels instead of indigenous craft items.

"We have not been able to penetrate the vast majority of these hotels. Jamaican art does not show up very readily in the international auctions that come to Jamaica and, when they do, their policy in terms of payment, and the use of art, is to say the least, a slap in the face," said Fox-Mould.

According to Garth Sanguinetti, master goldsmith and head of applied arts at the Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts, many local artists are being shafted by th infiltration of low-end substandard craft that saturates the Jamaican market.

"The artists get disgruntled! We're left behind, we get frustrated and in the end, we just migrate," said Sanguinetti.

However, according to Jesús Silva, Spanish Ambassador to Jamaica, there is no need for local artists to compete with imported craftwork. Instead, it is important to concentrate on maintaining the quality and standard of the local art and develop a solid market for art tourism.

"People will spend ten times more for a piece of good quality over Chinese craft as long as they recognise the quality," he said.

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