The art of survival in Haiti-Added COMMENTARY By Haitian-Truth

Rum and refugees apart, Haiti’s biggest export is art — vibrant, fantastical, brilliantly coloured paintings full of detail and symbolism, the best of which fetch many thousands of dollars in the United States and Europe.

Haiti has suffered every sort of adversity — slavery, war, brutal dictatorships, desperate poverty, floods, landslides — but the paintings themselves are customarily bright, gay and idealised. A multitude of artists transform the most wretched, impoverished country in the Western hemisphere into a bucolic, bountiful Africanesque paradise full of joyful people and magical creatures.

It is a form of escapism, says Bill Bollendorf, who sells Haitian art through his Galerie Macondo in Pittsburgh: “They live in such misery in real life, but in their fantasy lives they occupy a much better place.”

Toni Monnin runs one of Haiti’s leading art galleries, agrees: “Haitians don’t like to depict the sadder or tougher side of life because their lives are already so difficult.”

Could that innate optimism and resilience survive an earthquake that destroyed Port-au-Prince, left 1.2 million inhabitants homeless, and killed 230,000? Ninety per cent of Galerie Monnin’s 60 artists lost homes, relatives, materials — everything. Priceless collections of Haitian art were lost beneath the rubble.

Two months later the first “earthquake paintings” are emerging. They are as powerful in their way as the most harrowing photographs of that catastrophe, and say much about the Haitian character. They do not ignore the horrors, but neither do they dwell on them. Their predominant message is one of faith, hope and salvation.

“It’s a kind of catharsis,” says Monnin. “It always comes back to resilience. It’s the Haitian thing. You just get on with life and keep going.”



Without a doubt, Haiti has more great artists per square mile than any other country in the world.

Without a doubt, these artists have been screwed by gallery owners since George Nader first started exploiting them during the sixties on an international level.    Nader wasn’t satisfied with maintaining the purity of Haiti’s art. Recently, some 40 % of the paintings hanging in his Petionville gallery were fakes.

One person recently bought a Carlo Jean Jacques with paint still damp…. A great trick since the artist has been dead for many years.

H.R. Bresil is another one of Nader’s favorite. Bresil has painted more pieces for Nader – since his death – than he produced during his life!! He manages an output of Sejournes that sometimes have eight different signatures on 10 pieces hanging in his showroom. A Sejourne can cost you $30,000 American so Nader’s investment of $300.00 is not misplaced.

Like other gallery owners, Nader pays the artist pennies, for their work, and reaps a fortune. For instance, he might pay an artist $300 Haitian ( about $36 American) and then sells the same painting for  $500.00 US to $1,000.00 US.

Recently, Nader had to reimburse a Japanese purchaser something like $1.600,000.00 for bad pieces.

In American he should be charged in a criminal court since his galleries there sell the same fraudulent pieces.

Preval talks about stamping out corruption. One of his first small efforts should be one that sees the fake artists punished so that the real  artist’s work will be recognized for what it is….the real thing..


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3 thoughts on “The art of survival in Haiti-Added COMMENTARY By Haitian-Truth

  1. I can recall visiting the Nader place in Coral Gables. The guy there was so arrogant and rude. He was a Nader but not the older one who I know from before.

    They had a painting that was supposed to be a Bresil but was of a style that Bresil never did. The signature was not the same as the one Bresil used on a painting I bought from Bresil in 1990. He has a special way of doing the e that sets him aside.

    My painting is a beauty. The one Nader had was really an embarassment but – should you not know the real workds – you will be happy thinking you have something genuine.

    One of my cousins was an artist. He told me how Nader and Issa bought by the square inch – no matter who the artist was. It was take it or leave it and, when you have a starving family…you take it.

    I love much my Bresil.

  2. Good comment.

    I used to buy from Francine Murat at the Centre d’Art which was destroyed in the recent earthquake.

    Nader got his big starts with the cruise lines and made a fortune. He has several galleries in the States and aslo does a great deal of business in Japan where Haitian art is very popular. However, after his recent fiasco, Haitian art could well be dead in Japan since they are the type of people who will divorce themselves from any subject that has been proven false.

    I have always been surprised at the fact no one has gone to the police about Nader selling forged works. It would be considered a major felony offence to sell a Sejourne, Gourgue, Fabien or other artist’s work for thousands, when he paid some good artist to create this forgery a few hundreds while he gets $10,000, $20,000, or $30,000…more from a buyer…and certifies, in writing that the piece is original.

    He is very bold.

    Perhaps he can join Bernie Madoff in jail.

    They are cut from the same cloth of greed.

  3. I worked with an ONG during the nineties in Haiti and bought seventeen works over the period

    I vividly remember a visit to the Nader place. I was looking at a really nice painting when a guy came in. He was very angry and scratched a painting he claimed was a copy of his work. The signature on the work was Simile or something like that. It was a lovely black silhouette of a lady with gold jewelry The guy was really, really angry and no one moved to stop him as he stormed out.

    I thought he was just crazy, but I guess he may have been sending a message.

    I bought the one I was looking at, a realy good one by Albert Desmangles.

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