By Jackson M. Henry —-
“Arts are the main force against the stagnation of society”, said artist Guisseppi Rafitanti.
Rafitanti’s statement is predicated on the truth that arts posses the power to stimulate the senses, evoke emotions and inspire people’s imaginations. Arts are self-expressions, creativity and imaginations of the artists freely unleashing their talents in societies where arts are appreciated. Even an African dictator once said that cultural arts posses the power to incite nationalism.
Palauans are born with inherent love for arts. Arts have a way of awakening the spirit within us. Today, many countries create venues for artists to freely engage in artistic pursuits and for art lovers to enjoy and be inspired by aesthetical beauty of arts. So the idea of art galleries was born.
One of the world’s oldest and most famous art gallery is none other than the Louvre in Paris. With 8 million visitors a year, it is the most visited art gallery. Leonardo Va Vinci’s Mona Lisa is exhibited there along with other famous Greek sculptures like Nike and Venus. It opened in 1682 when King Louis XIV moved to the Palace of Versailles leaving the Louvre as the repository of royal arts. Today, the Louvre holds a collection of over 380,000 masterpieces of arts.
My fascination with E.M. Pei’s glass pyramid led me to visit the Louvre during a business trip to Paris in 1996. Little did I know that in its gallery exhibited the famous portrait of Mona Lisa. The visual arts that I saw were all awe inspiring and left a strong impression in my mind. My experience at the Louvre led me to donate the statue of Prince Lebuu to PCC and portraits to the BelauMuseum and other individuals in Palau. I guess you can call me a small time art connoisseur.
One of Palau’s most distinguishing features is our cultural arts. They stir our imagination and make us proud of our unique cultural heritage. However, our arts today appear to have taken a back seat to imported arts and western pop culture. We see Palauan arts slowly fading away. This is quiet a contrast to the Palau that I saw as a young boy when cultural arts was conspicuously displayed everywhere. I do recall Keptot El Bai, located where PNCC is now located, adorned with colorful arts and famous Palauan legends. Even the Jeep Taxis were beautifully painted with various Palauan legends and iconic historical Palauan motifs. Palau seems to be missing something without the vivid display of its cultural arts.
I believe the time has come for Palau to create its very own National Gallery of Arts. Established local artists like Sam Adelbai , Scott Weers and emerging artists, can exhibit their masterpieces for both locals and tourists to enjoy. Fees can be collected at the door to incentivize the artists while creating a new cultural attraction for our tourism industry. Cultural arts can also help inspire our children to appreciate the beauty of Palauan arts and legends.
The ideal venue for the Palau National Gallery of Arts is the old OEK building in Koror. It is centrally located, has historical significance and situated right next to BethlehemPark which has become the epicenter of Palau cultural activities. Anyone who creates this vital cultural institution will not only make an indelible mark in Palau’s arts history but will leave a legacy that future generations of Palauan will cherish forever.
An artist once told me, “An art gallery is an oasis of contemplation that reminds us of just how much the power of beauty can transform our lives”.