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Exhibitions/ Arte del mar: Artistic Exchange in the Caribbean

Arte del mar: Artistic Exchange in the Caribbean

At The Met Fifth Avenue
December 16, 2019–June 27, 2021

Exhibition Catalogue

Revealing a distinctly Caribbean approach to creativity, the winter 2020 Bulletin features masterworks from the early first millennium to the present.

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Exhibition Overview


Arte del mar ("art of/from the sea") explores the artistic exchange around the rim of the Caribbean Sea before the sixteenth century between the Taíno civilizations of the Antilles archipelago and their powerful peers on the continental mainland. Recent archaeological, ethnohistorical, and art-historical research has deepened our understanding of indigenous Caribbean concepts of ritual knowledge, ceremonial performance, and political power. Artists in the region—which includes the modern Antilles archipelago and countries such as Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, and Honduras—sought to express the distinct force of their deities and ancestors, known to the Taínos as zemí   (or cemí), which pervaded the environment and was crucial to the foundation of communities. Pendants and other objects worn and used by leaders in ceremonies were created from imported luxury materials and share a formal grammar that is inextricably linked with deeply rooted mythological narratives. Works of art on view in the exhibition, largely drawn from The Met collection, celebrate the region's ancestral traditions, and a twentieth-century painting by an Afro-Caribbean artist explores their enduring legacy.

"A concentrated showcase at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that plunges visitors into a sea of archipelagic thinking. It is the Met’s first show to reckon with the Caribbean as its own zone of contact."—New York Times

"The 42 objects in the gallery have a mute eloquence 'Heart-Shaped Bottle with Phallic Spout' . . . in itself worth a visit to the show, will make anyone want to see more of Taíno culture."—Observer

"Tiene que ver con nuestra cultura, con nuestras raíces, el origen y la razón por la cuál estamos aquí. . . Es muy, muy chévere, recomendadísimo!" ("It has to do with our culture, with our roots, the origin, and the reason for which we are here. . . It's very, very cool, highly recommended!")—Nuestra Tele Internacional

The exhibition is made possible by the Friends of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas: Art of Five Continents.

The Met's quarterly Bulletin program is supported in part by the Lila Acheson Wallace Fund for The Metropolitan Museum of Art, established by the cofounder of Reader's Digest.

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in

Preview the Exhibition

Bring an Island Deity to Life in Augmented Reality

A photo of a man working on a 3D model on a computer

Explore a zemí—a Taíno deity present in healing ceremonies—at home in augmented reality.

Exhibition Objects

Deity Figure (zemí) (detail), ca. A.D. 1000. Dominican Republic (?). Taíno. Wood (Guaiacum), shell, 27 x 8 5/8 x 9 1/8 in. (68.5 x 21.9 x 23.2 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979 (1979.206.380)