Rum and modern art: a successful cocktail by Fondation Clément

Imagine taking in modern masterpieces in a former rum distillery—it’s possible at Le François, on the East Coast of Martinique. Florent Plasse, director of Fondation Clément, walks us through the origins of this project and explains what the new space will offer.

What was the impetus for displaying modern art in the Habitation Clément?
In the 1980s, Habitation Clément, a rum distillery and distributor, opened itself to the public to celebrate its significant heritage: the old distillery with its incredible machinery, the Créole house, and cellars where the rum would mature. In 2005, we wanted to display new cultural works with an eye for honoring contemporary artists of the Caribbean. To meet this goal, GBH (a Martiniquais enterprise which owns Habitation Clément) created a foundation.

What is Fondation Clément’s objective?
We wanted to create a cultural institution that didn’t exist before to welcome modern art in Martinique, and to give Caribbean artists, working in the region or abroad, a platform. In 2016, we inaugurated a new space with three rooms of 650 square feet to marry the best conditions of exhibitions and conservation.

What kind of experience are hoping to give visitors?
Each year, we produce eight to ten exhibitions that last two months each, together or separately, honoring Caribbean artists. Photography, installations, sculpture, video works, painting: artistic practices are eclectic. For example, at the end of 2017, we worked with JonOne, one of the precursors to Street Art in France, born in Harlem to Dominican parents. In this way, the exhibitions wasn’t necessarily centered on the Caribbean, but offered a cultural highlight on the island.

What is on the agenda for 2018?
Running until May 6, 2018, the main exhibitions is titled “African Artists of Yesterday and Today.” It was created in partnership with la Fondation Dapper. It’s projected to attract 40,000 visitors, and is our 100th exhibition!

Do you offer hands-on events in addition to the exhibitions?
Of course! We want to encourage enthusiasm and interest of the practical aspects of art. So, we offer round tables with the artists, creative workshops, outdoor screenings, and guided visits as well as the typical exhibitions.

Tell us a bit about the the works on display in the Habitation Clément park...
Sugarcane plantations are an incredible setting for the permanent pieces! The sculpture gardens, situated in the 40 acre park, is home to monumental and perennial works from Caribbean and world-renowned outside artists like Pablo Reinoso or Bernar Venet.

Does the Fondation Clément support other cultural activities?
We manage two other institutions dedicated to Martiniquais heritage: the Habitation Pécoul and the Habitation La Sucrerie. We also produce documentary collections to testify our social and economic history. Lastly, we do some publishing in partnership with La Maison HC relating to art and heritage.

Habitation Clement in Martinique