Finding art in Haiti is easy. All you have to do is go outside. Wherever you are, there is art. You’ll find walls covered with colorful paintings, wood and steel drum sculptures defying the hot sun for miles and miles. People will walk up to your car window with their work, and they will make you all kinds of unbelievable offers. However, shopping for a nice piece of artwork should be all about the experience and the quality. And you don’t want to have that same painting in your house you see in every street corner of the same market place scene with the same trees, do you?
One of my favorite adventures in Haiti this year was our visit at the El Saieh Gallery. We visited a few art galleries and markets in Port-au-Prince where I was able to purchase some beaded coasters, a hand-painted tray, and a series of surprise Christmas gifts (I won’t mention here) for some loved ones. I was in heaven! If I didn’t only bring a carry-on and my budget was a bit more flexible, I would bring back a embarrassing amount of stuff. I want the stuff. All the stuff! Going to these places and being able to support talented artists from my country meant the world to me. My favorite gallery was the El-Saieh Gallery, located in the Pacot area in Port-au-Prince. Although I didn’t get the pieces I desired, I know I will return, and it is indeed a place to remember. It is a must if you’re in Port-au-Prince, even for a quick visit.
I felt like a small child in a candy store where each aisle was filled with the most exciting and colorful, delicious candies in all the land. My eyes jumped from painting to painting, and my feet took me from room to room. There were about three floors of amazing art-work. Each floor was sectioned into giant rooms with collections of artwork by some well-known painters in Haiti. Some small contemporary pieces ranged from $20-$50, while others were priced at $500 and up. There were other large historical pieces mounted on the walls that were not for sale.
The gallery was founded by Issa El-Saieh (The Maestro), a leading figure in the world of Haitian art. He was known to be a generous man an a “complex character”. He opened the gallery 1954, then moved it to his home near the Grand Hotel Oloffson in the early 60’s where some great Haitian artist would come to paint. Before becoming an arts dealer, he was a musician. He was recognized in Lincoln Center in 1998 as one of five “giants” in Haitian music.
El Saieh Gallery- 19 Avenue Du Chili – Port-Au-Prince, Haiti
C A H – Fondation pour le Developpement de l’Artisanat Haitien-
29, Rue 3 Port-Au-Prince, Haiti
This store is filled with hand painted goods from a collection of Haitian artists. It’s the perfect place to shop for souvenirs to bring back for friends and family. Anything from hand painted shot glasses to oil lamps can be purchased there.
Artisan Business Network-
22, 1re ruelle Winson (Babiole area) – Port-Au-Prince, Haiti
I purchased a tray I saw on Macy’s website there. For the holiday last year, Macy’s featured some Haitian artists, and I’ve been eyeing the tray for a while. When I finally went to purchase it, it was sold out. You can imagine the joy I felt when I spotted it. It’s my “honey feed me breakfast in bed while I look at this fantastic hand-painted tray from my country” tray. It couldn’t even fit in my luggage, and I still carried it awkwardly on the plane and took it home.
Festival Arts – Kay Atizan – 43, rue Magny Pétion-ville
This place is a little oasis in the middle of Petion-Ville. I love the beautiful garden and the cozy interior. I spotted some cool tea-shirts, veve artworks, hand-painted dresses, books, hand-made jewelry, and everything else I love there.