The Met Exhibition Explores Ancestral Caribbean Civilization
A stunning narrative of creativity from the ancestral cultures that encircled the Caribbean Sea in the millennia before European colonization. The exhibition will be the first to focus on the artistic exchange that took place among the Taíno civilizations of the Greater Antilles (present-day Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico) and the coastal societies in countries such as Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, and Honduras before the 16th century. Highlights will include rarely seen sculptures created in ancient Puerto Rico.
The exhibition is made possible by the Friends of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas: Art of Five Continents.
“Early Caribbean civilizations developed a rich cultural legacy that was fueled by the interplay of ideas and influences across the region,” said Max Hollein, the Director of The Met. “This exhibition celebrates the artistic traditions of these ancestral communities while honoring the enduring power of the objects.”
Organized into three primary sections focused on ritual knowledge, ceremonial performance, and political power, Arte del mar (art of/from the sea) will highlight the sculptural achievements of the diverse island societies known today as the Taínos. Featured works on view include four rare wooden sculptures, such as the 10th- to 11th-century Deity Figure (Zemí) from The Met collection, a masterpiece that intertwines spirituality, ceremony, and politics.Another spectacular wooden figure from the 14th century, on loan from the Saint Louis Art Museum, illustrates how special trees inspired sculptors to reveal specific deity or ancestor forms in collaboration with leaders and ritual specialists. An exceptional group of three-pointed stones (trigonolitos), on loan from the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, highlights the extraordinary range of materials and imagery used by Taino sculptors to create spiritually charged ritual objects.