Mundus vult decipi: Caribbean Indigenous Art Past, Present, Future

Author(s): Joanna Ostapkowicz

Year: 2018


The 1990s, with quincentenary ‘celebrations’ and two highly influential Taino art exhibits in Paris and New York (the epicentres of the pre-Columbian art market), heralded a seismic increase of indigenous Caribbean art forgeries. But these weren’t the first indications of an emerging market: Caribbean forgeries had been circulating since at least the 1950s. The artistic heritage of the pre-Columbian Caribbean still remains largely understudied, with far smaller-scale production than seen in neighbouring regions like Mexico and Peru (with their own long-established, highly prolific forgers) – two of a number of factors that have led not only to site looting but entrepreneurial ‘reinterpretations’ of ancient artforms, both aimed at filling voids in private collections. These neo-artforms eventually enter museum collections, and are published in glossy catalogues as the genuine article, perpetuating the continuation of a particular forger’s oeuvre, cementing it as an established, ancient ‘style’, and so skewing understanding of past artistic expressions and meanings. The forger's craft has become increasingly sophisticated, deceptive and profitable. This paper explores the issues of Caribbean forgeries in both private and museum collections, contrasting the covert enterprise with art openly produced by local artists taking the islands’ ancient artistic heritage in new directions.

Cite this Record

Mundus vult decipi: Caribbean Indigenous Art Past, Present, Future. Joanna Ostapkowicz. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 444922)

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min long: -90.747; min lat: 3.25 ; max long: -48.999; max lat: 27.683 ;

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Abstract Id(s): 20453