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History and archives

Created in 1944 under the impetus of the American watercolorist, DeWitt Peters, and several Haitian intellectuals, Le Centre d’Art has a fundamental role in the history of Haitian painting. This institution, which received public interest status in 1947, was started when there were still no galleries or public initiative art schools in Haiti.

Both an art gallery and educational center, for more than fifty years, Le Centre d’Art was a one-of-a-kind social melting pot in Haiti: intellectuals, autodidacts, artisans and renowned foreign visitors all converged here.

Le Centre d’Art also helped educate several generations of renowned artists such as Hector Hyppolite, Rigaud Benoit, Wilson Bigaud, Préfète Duffaut, Jasmin Joseph, Edouard Duval Carrié, and was at the origin of the “Naïve” art movement, which emerged in 1945.

Foreign intellectuals and artists, such as the Cuban art critic José Gomez Sicre in 1945 and the French Surrealist André Breton in 1948, contributed to the promotion and legitimacy of “Naïve” painters who thereafter met with a great success on the international art market.

Le Centre d’Art gave birth to the Musée d’Art Haïtien du Collège St Pierre, which opened its doors in 1972 on the Champ de Mars, the main public square in Port-au-Prince. It was the sole museum dedicated to Haitian art up until 2010. The fresco paintings in the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port-au-Prince, veritable reference pieces for Haitian art, were also an initiative by the Center’s directors. Furthermore, thanks to the Center, an important national heritage made up of essential Haitian paintings and sculptures, as well as documents with considerable historic significance were also preserved.

It should also be noted that Le Centre d’Art was behind the creation of the first newspaper dedicated to fine arts in Haiti, called “STUDIO #3.” In addition, the first historical text on Haitian art published by a Haitian author “Panorama de l’art haïtien” was written by one of the founders of Le Centre d’Art, Philippe Tjoby Marcelin in 1956.

Besides promoting the work of its artists, Le Centre d’Art also laid the foundations for the Haitian art market. International institutions like the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA) procured works by Haitian painters through the Center. Art galleries started to appear in Port-au-Prince. Thus, a collective movement began, giving form to new business opportunities, which grew in breadth with the development of tourism in the 1950s.

Following in DeWitt Peters’ footsteps in 1965, Francine Murat, still a young employee at Le Centre d’Art, took over and perpetuated the founder’s vision. She worked to make the spirit of the Center come to life and continued to carry on with activities despite great financial difficulties until its collapse in January 2010.


Le Centre d’Art, built in the Gingerbread style…

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