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Reggae enthusiasts pay big for poster art - More than half a million heads to Alpha Boys' School

Published:Wednesday | November 14, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Jordane Delahaye, Gleaner Writer

Art collectors and reggae enthusiasts alike engaged in a competitive bidding session on Sunday at a live auction hosted at the National Gallery. The auction is part of a two-part fund-raising initiative for the Alpha Boys' School.

The top 100 posters from the first international Reggae Poster Contest were included in the World-A-Reggae exhibition at the National Gallery.

These posters were then donated to the Alpha Boys' School at the end of the exhibition, and according to Veerle Poupeye, executive director at the National Gallery, the gallery is now assisting Alpha with the sale of the posters.

"The sale is being done in two parts: the live auction, which is for the 50 best posters, as well as the contributed posters that were not a part of the contest, and then we are now looking to have part two in February for Reggae Month where the remaining posters will go on eBay," Poupeye revealed to The Gleaner.

According to Poupeye, Alpha was selected as the beneficiary for this initiative because of the seminal role it plays in the development of Jamaican music.

"Alpha is a Jamaican success story and shows how social adversity can be turned into something that is very productive for society. This is just a way to give back to Alpha as we find that it is taken for granted. It is sort of assumed that it will always be there but, as with any organisation, especially with the current recession, they do have challenges," Poupeye said.

Jamaican reggae veteran Bunny Rugs lent his support to the cause by opening the auction with a short performance that was very well received.

The auction began slowly as the first bid of the afternoon did not come until the fourth poster, a tribute to Beres Hammond and his hit single What One Dance Can Do, was shown.

The same bidder then went on to win another eight posters and was by far the most competitive bidder of the evening.

It may shock some to know that the enthusiastic bidder was a 12-year-old.

Chance Saulter explained that despite his tender years, he was a reggae enthusiast and was attracted by the old-school reggae imagery which the posters highlighted.

Overall, it was a successful auction and the approximately 43 of the 64 posters that were on offer were sold.

The most popular poster was a tribute to former director at Alpha and inspirational reggae musician, Sister Ignatius.

The contributed poster, by renowned artist and designer Luba Lukova, was sold for a whopping $66,000 to the young Saulter.

Another popular poster, which also placed fifth in the competition overall, was by Jamaican artist Taj Francis.

Francis was the only Jamaican included in the top 100 and his poster is an ode to Lee Scratch Perry, a pioneer in the Jamaican music industry.

Joshua Chamberlain of the Alpha Boys' School told The Gleaner the school was aiming at broadening its offerings to students, and that the funds raised by the effort would greatly aid them in doing so.

"Alpha is known as a trade school but we're really looking into developing entrepreneurs as well, and we're also looking to tap into the visual arts niche. There are Alpha boys now participating in the arts programme at the National Gallery for the first time and that's something we want to offer to the school at large," Chamberlain said.

All proceeds from the auction will go to the Alpha Boys' School.

Kristina Kerr of Market Me explained that her company was very interested in aiding the initiative pro bono.

"We have contacts with companies that are looking to get their brands out there, and we really wanted to help in any way we could, so Market Me came on board with the Alpha Boys' School to assist in providing refreshments for the evening. The idea is if you drink more, you'll spend more," Kerr joked.

And spend they did.

More than $500,000 was raised at Sunday's auction.

For the remainder of the week, the posters that were not sold on Sunday will be available at their reserved prices, which are significantly marked down from their estimated value.

Those wishing to get their hands on the cultural treasures while supporting the Alpha Boys' School can send an email to alphaboysschool@gmail.com.