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.