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Veerle Poupeye

Born, 1958 in Belgium

Born in Belgium, Veerle Poupey is one of the world’s leading scholars of Caribbean art. She holds an MA from the Universiteit Gent in Belgium and a Ph.D. from Emory University. She has numerous publications to her name, including the foundational co-authored book Modern Jamaican Art (1998), and numerous essays, research articles and exhibition catalogue essays on Jamaican and Caribbean art and culture. She is the editor of and contributor to a substantial number of recent volumes produced by the National Gallery of Jamaica, whose topics range from Explorations IV: Masculinities (2015) to Nature and Landscape (2015), Religion and Spirituality (2013), and emerging Jamaican artists (2013). She authored the 1998 Thames & Hudson World of Art book, Caribbean Art, a hugely important, ground-breaking book. It was the first of its kind to offer a broad-based introduction to art of the Caribbean, and it argued for a range of diasporic contexts within which the construct of ‘Caribbean Art’ could be read. To this end, the book included references to British artists such as Sonia Boyce, Keith Piper, Frank Bowling, and US artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, artists frequently disassociated from traditional constructions of ‘Caribbean Art’. The book was also of considerable interest to those readers with various degrees of familiarity with art of the Caribbean and remains unsurpassed in terms of its breadth and scholarship. 20 years after its publication, it remains the foundational introduction to Caribbean Art.

Poupeye had an association with the National Gallery of Jamaica as curator for several decades and served as its Executive Director from 2009 until recently. Under her stewardship, the National Gallery of Jamaica cemented its status as the leading public collection of Jamaican/Caribbean art.

Poupeye lives and works in Kingston, Jamaica and currently lectures in Material Culture and Curatorial Studies at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston. She has also taught at the University of the West Indies–Mona, at Emory University, and New York University.

Her work is situated at the intersection of modernism, the African Diaspora, Latin America, and legacy of the colonial era. With these pronounced framings, Poupeye is a scholar who positions the art of the wider Caribbean in terms that embrace artists such as Paul Giudicelli, Julio Rosado del Valle and Lorenzo Homar, alongside perhaps more widely-known names such as Wifredo Lam.  Poupeye’s scholarship, by necessity, forges dialogues between Europe, Latin America, Africa, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Her work also does not shy away from Caribbean modernism’s relationship to the legacy of colonialism in this region.

Poupeye has also done much in the way of curating, and as such, is a scholar whose research is grounded in questions relating to the ways in which Caribbean art is defined, displayed and presented, and the tensions that can exist in these processes. Her longstanding interest is in what she refers to as “ecologies of art,” or the ways in which galleries and museums must interface with government and non-governmental organizations to present art in a way that is both global and local.

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