THIRTY YEARS OF READYTEX ART GALLERY
February 8, 1993 – February 8, 2023
Today the first episode of a new series of blog posts, More than ripples. Every month for more than a year you can read about the impact of thirty years of Readytex Art Gallery (RAG).
The gallery opened its doors on February 8, 1993, at that time on the first floor of the building in the Maagdenstraat, in Paramaribo, Suriname. This gave the visual arts of Suriname a house, or rather: a home. A kind of umbrella that covers a lot. Because the exhibition space with its striking pink walls was, and still is, much more than ‘just’ a gallery. The opening on February 8, 1993 was like the proverbial stone that fell into the pond; the impact can be read from the ripples that spread around it.
In this first blog post you look through the eyes of several people who are close to Readytex Art Gallery. In the coming months, different perspectives and aspects will be discussed. Do you have a question or a suggestion? Do you have a story or a photo that you want to share with the SAX readers? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adding to the splendor of the celebration of thirty years of RAG is also done by means of the group exhibition ECOLOGY – 30 years Readytex Art Gallery. In this exhibition, the audience is taken, through a thematic timeline of artworks, on a visual journey through the past thirty years of visual art in Readytex Art Gallery. According to artist/curator Miguel Keerveld, this theme is very appropriate for the jubilee year. ‘Ecology can be used and interpreted as concretely, abstractly and in many ways as one wishes. That is why I think it would be great to look at this from different perspectives and disciplines. The fact that RAG stimulates an art ecology in Suriname and invests in it as such may also be discussed.’
The proposal for the gallery came from Eva NouhChaia-Issa thirty years ago. The idea arose from a special love for art, a passion she shares with her daughter Monique. But also to meet a clear need. At the time, various local artists brought small works of art to Readytex to offer for sale in the souvenir shop. With the arrival of the gallery, there was a much better place to show and sell art.
The past thirty years contain many highlights such as: the launch of the website www.readytexartgallery.com in 2005, the first solo exhibition in the new exhibition space De Hal (Facebook), Dichtbij de oorsprong [Close to the origin], René Tosari, 2010, the move to the beautiful building in the Steenbakkerijstraat and of course the many exhibitions. 96 solo exhibitions, 66 group exhibitions, 42 projects, 24 collaborations, 29 artist-in-residencies and 92 international exhibitions that RAG has participated in … And not to forget: the daily international presence on the website and social media.●
The question ‘What is the impact of thirty years of Readytex Art Gallery (RAG), how do various people see the value of RAG?’ was put to a few people for this episode. In the coming episodes, more and more people will take the floor to share their view on this question.
From left to right: Sri Irodikromo, Miguel Keerveld, Monique NouhChaia SookdewSing & Kurt Nahar; Monique NouhChaia SookdewSing, Rinaldo Klas, Miguel Keerveld & Alida Neslo; Monique with her ever-full agenda / PHOTOS 1. & 2. Courtesy Readytex Art Gallery (RAG) & 3. Ada Korbee
First of all, a word to Monique NouhChaia SookdewSing, co-founder and currently director of Readytex Art Gallery together with her mother Eva NouhChaia-Issa. Words that really appeal to Monique NouhChaia SookdewSing (and at the same time characterize her very well): “No aksi san kondre man du gi yu, aksi san yu man du gi kondre.” This is the Sranantongo translation of the statement always attributed to John F. Kennedy. However, he in turn probably got his inspiration from a quote from Khalil Gibran who wrote an essay in The New Frontier in 1925: “Are you a politician asking what your country can do for you or a zealous one asking what you can do for your country? If you are the first, then you are a parasite; if the second, then you are an oasis in a desert.” And also this explanation, giving credit to others where possible, the eye for the smallest detail, this is also characteristic of Monique NouhChaia SookdewSing.
‘With our work I have been able to give a louder voice to artists from Suriname. Some directly, some indirectly. “Our work” is the work of so many people connected to Readytex Art Gallery. The team, the professionals, the collaborators, the art buyers, the media and of course the ARTISTS!
After thirty years of RAG, I am still convinced of the power of artists in our small-scale society. I want to achieve much more with that so far and sometimes find it frustrating to accept that it can’t be done faster. I would like to do so much more for visual artists, but that is only really possible if more people find it valuable to buy art through us (RAG). In fact, that gives us the elbow room we need to do more. I still believe in the sustainability of the process through the commitment of the collector.
The COVID break has also left me personally changed. Among other things, I now struggle with long-term planning for the company. It feels impractical in a world in transition. I have therefore gradually scrapped my plans for the future. For the time being, I will focus on continuing to do our utmost every day within the possibilities we have.
It would be nice if I experienced another tipping point in my active career. The next level, where art forms an essential part of Suriname’s export industry. With that motivation, I’ve been putting my shoulders every day for thirty years with just as much passion to reach that starting point.’
Publicist, including on visual arts, Chandra van Binnendijk, attended the opening in 1993.
‘Whoever witnessed it then probably didn’t really realize that history would be made that evening. It was a beautiful evening towards the end of the short rainy season, in the sky just the last glow of the setting sun. The first floor of the well-maintained wooden building in the heart of Paramaribo buzzed and vibrated with joyful anticipation. A room full of cheerful people. Who visibly, audibly, palpably enjoyed the occasion: the opening of a new art gallery in Paramaribo. That joy was so welcome. Thirty years ago we were all in the grip of a grim economic crisis. And then suddenly there was this new art gallery. Simply, against the prevailing tide of gloom-and-doom. Fresh and quirky. The artworks had an unusual sparkle due to the setting in which they were displayed. The paintings hung on pink walls. Pink walls! A deep intense pink, the color that radiates happiness and optimism. With that alone, Readytex Art Gallery wrote history at the time. And it has continued to do so every thirty years of its existence. HATS OFF!’
A photo slideshow from the opening of Readytex Art Gallery, February 8, 1993/ PHOTOS Courtesy Readytex Art Gallery (RAG)
Cassandra Gummels-Relyveld, highly valued team member of Team RAG.
‘For me, the most beautiful thing, after the artworks themselves of course, is the way ideas and projects are created at Readytex Art Gallery, always in a team. And what a beautiful, dynamic and creative team it has always been! All nice people with different backgrounds, artists and non-artists, who complement each other beautifully, who like to brainstorm with each other and with whom it is always a lot of fun. Monique and her Alakondre team! Striving together for growth and development of the Surinamese art market.’
The 2023 RAG Team. From left to right: Stanley Atmodikromo, Monique NouhChaia SookdewSing, Lucinda Oliander, Rohina Akloe and Nuyela Adjako. Missing from photo: Patricia Tawiredjo / PHOTO Courtesy Readytex Art Gallery (RAG)
Ada Korbee, who moved to Curaçao in 2022, but also continues to contribute to Team RAG from a distance.
‘When I think of Readytex Art Gallery, these words come to mind first: friendship, women and trust. Then comes creativity, art, teamwork, hard work and deadlines. Of the thirty years I have been able to experience almost twelve, with small exhibitions and events in the gallery above the souvenir shop.
My three highlights were:
- the birth of the art witches with Monique in the lead, at 20 years RAG.
- The opening of De Hal (Facebook), the white cube where we could present larger works by the RAG artists, receive international artists and hold design presentations.
- In 2014/2015 the renovation and move to its own place with four floors of art, with which RAG continues to profile itself in a grander and more challenging way in Suriname and at an international level.
I’ve left, miss my RAG friends but still feel connected and stay tuned! All the success of the world for Monique and her team, with the driving force of the art witches!’
In the parental home of Eva NouhChaia-Issa, in the Steenbakkerijstraat, where Readytex Specials used to be housed on the ground floor, Readytex Art Gallery has opened its doors to a new and more spacious location on February 7, 2015. This is the fulfillment of a long cherished dream. At Steenbakkerijstraat 30, in a beautifully restored family building, formerly the family home of Woirdie and Antonio Issa, Readytex Art Gallery now has four floors available to showcase the beautiful work of its partner artists / IMAGE Courtesy Readytex Art Gallery (RAG)
Ann Hermelijn has a special bond with RAG.
‘RAG started as a small initiative and is now an initiative with a major impact! Readytex Art Gallery started thirty years ago as part of the Readytex souvenir & crafts, because it was just that little bit different. Something that would set them apart from the rest. And so it is, RAG is now our anchor of the art scene in Suriname.
After thirty years, RAG is literally a majestic house, an art house that you, as a Surinamese and art lover, are proud of. Great artists are trained there. RAG is also the largest art gallery in the Caribbean, the Netherlands Antilles and the three Guyanas and the most special thing for me is that it does not depend on government or donor money. That is unique in the world!
For me personally, RAG is also the internship during my training as a professional event organizer. Working behind the scenes gave me an idea of the many activities involved in making an exhibition. This has increased my appreciation for the work that RAG does as an organization.’
Marieke Visser, writer, among other things about visual arts.
‘My return migration to Suriname was in the same month as the opening of RAG. It was one of the things that made me feel that we made the right decision to return. To live in a country where there is such a beautiful art center … I could not have imagined then that my path would become so closely intertwined with that of RAG.
For me, RAG is one of the most important factors of where we are now with Surinamese visual art. For example, Monique NouhChaia SookdewSing was one of the founders of Sranan Art Xposed (SAX), the digital platform for Surinamese visual art. She never tried to influence the content in any way. Her only motivation is to generate more attention for the entire Surinamese art world. Her faith in me has given me wings and that goes for many like me. By the way, in my case it is not the wings that make me fly, but my artificial witch’s broom!’
On the occasion of 20 years of RAG, Monique NouhChaia SookdewSing has been proclaimed the leader of the art witches, who can sometimes also be art bitches. From left to right: Marieke Visser, Ada Korbee, Ann Hermelijn, Monique NouhChaia SookdewSing, Cassandra Gummels-Relyveld & Chandra van Binnendijk / PHOTO Courtesy Readytex Art Gallery (RAG)/Lygia Matawi
Alida Neslo has been very closely involved with Team RAG in recent years. She is the one who gave words to the Alakondre concept which is so in line with where the Surinamese art world is now.
“I am happy to witness THIS TIME, at RAG.
For me, RAG is first and foremost a creator (facilitator?) of an innovative kind of aesthetic. Originated in home soil. Finally.
Not according to the recipe of staring at one’s own navel, but rather becoming more ‘me’, through the concept of ‘one/the other’. Ambiguity may divide, but can also unite. No uniformity, but individual ideas through shared inspiration: ‘Deal’ instead of ‘divide’. (Dixit Mohamed Mbougar Sarr.)
At the same time I see the development of a more academically tinted cultural criticism/analysis. Slowly but certainly.
Alakondre moving forward!”
Alida Neslo with Zebra by Roddney Tjon Poen Gie in RAG / PHOTO Ada Korbee
The 30th anniversary is added to the splendor by the exhibition ECOLOGY – 30 years Readytex Art Gallery. The opening of this group exhibition will take place on Thursday 9 February at 7:30 PM. In this special exhibition, the public is taken on a visual journey through three decades of visual art development in the gallery. The composition of the exhibition was in the hands of a mixed curatorial team consisting of visual artist Rinaldo Klas, artist and curator Miguel Keerveld and art and culture consultant Aruna Mungra. And so RAG remains an ever-changing ecosystem from which new surprises emerge every time.
Stanley Atmodikromo, Rinaldo Klas & Aruna Mungra during the construction of ECOLOGY – 30 years Readytex Art Gallery / PHOTO Courtesy Readytex Art Gallery (RAG)