“I work seven days a week, I love it,” Myriam Nader explained on the day we spoke, “and I don’t mind at all, it’s my passion. I go the extra mile…Once you have a passion, work is not work…[And] my passion has always been Haitian art.”
Myriam does not exaggerate when she says she works seven days a week. As she shared with me, not even a car accident injury from a week prior could keep her from working in bed while she was recovering. It was from her office space in New York that Myriam chatted with me over Zoom, all the while she was wearing her neck brace.
Talking with Myriam via Zoom, I quickly realized the limitations of virtual communication and longed to have conducted this interview in person because I could only get a glimpse of one of the many paintings hanging on Myriam’s walls. However, while I was not able to get the in-person experience of seeing the small gallery Myriam has built in her office, after our interview, she sent me the links to the biographies and works of the Haitian artists she proudly has on display, among them Bernard Séjourné, Ernst Louizor, Jean Adrien Séide, and Gervais-Emmanuel Ducasse.
Myriam is available almost 24/7 to answer questions about Haitian art–don’t hesitate to email or call her up!, Source: Myriam Nader Haitian Art Gallery, NY YouTube.
When Myriam has a physical piece of art with her, she’ll make appointments with her clients so they can see it and talk about it in person. However, for over a decade, Myriam has been “thinking outside the box” by expanding accessibility and enhancing our virtual experiences with art. Myriam opened her independent virtual gallery, Myriam Nader Art Gallery, NY back in 2007, and since then, has curated hundreds upon hundreds of works of art that she sells directly on her site. One can browse the site through categories such as “Haitian Female Painters,” and genres like “Spiritual/Voodoo Scenes.” The gallery also provides the opportunity to read up on the chronology of Haitian art and its impact on the world or see the gallery’s latest virtual exhibition.
Looking through the gallery, it is readily apparent that Myriam has dedicated her whole heart to this business. She often clarifies throughout our interview that she does what she loves because of her passion, not because of financial motivation. “The reward of it goes further than what you get financially…What I want my clients to do is not only buy the piece of art, but see what’s behind a piece of art. You have to see the value, the history. What has it been through? What has made the fame of this artist?” she says.
Each work of art on her website is accompanied by an extensive description of the artwork and the artist, including their primary style and medium, how they got to where they are now, and what inspired them. Moreover, to ensure that each of her clients is educated on the piece of art they purchase, Myriam includes a biography of the artist and a certificate of authenticity with each piece that she sells.
Given the richness of Haitian art, one of Myriam’s biggest frustrations is its undervaluation on the art market, especially in the United States. Undervaluation is related to the auctioning of art at public auctions, where people unfamiliar and unknowledgeable about art from Haiti can sell paintings for thousands of dollars less than their real value. This is a serious issue given that public auction prices are later used as reference for other art piece’s sales, meaning the system perpetuates the problem of undervaluing Haitian art.
Another form of undervaluation happens when the artists’ work, and imitations of their work, are sold on the street. Myriam tells me it truly upsets her when she sees street art passed off as the equivalent of art bought in galleries, because it undermines the time, value, and effort that professional artists invest into their pieces. Moreover, it undermines the time and effort that Myriam and other art gallery owners invest in connecting with artists and helping build their reputations and fame.
Myriam makes a strong emphasis that, “[If you think] you can buy a piece of art on the street and think that you have treasure…I’m sorry, you don’t. It takes more than that [to own a valuable piece of art]. You have to go to a reputable art gallery and make sure that what you are buying has a sustainable value behind it, more than the colors or the subject…Every piece of art has to have a weight behind it, and the value comes from the name.” Besides, as Myriam tells me, not everyone can become famous or sell art for millions overnight, because, “If that were not the case, everybody in Haiti would be famous as an artist.”
For these reasons, Myriam strongly prefers private appraisal services and makes it widely known that she is always available to answer questions from existing clientele and anyone who is interested in learning more about Haitian art. After all: “It’s hard for anybody else to find someone who is qualified and who you can trust and has been in the business of Haitian art for so long.” Based on my conversation with Myriam, it is also clear that it is hard to find someone as passionate and dedicated to getting the details right.
In 2021, Myriam participated in a Haitian women in art panel to discuss how Source: Haiti International Film Festival YouTube
In fact, clients from all over the world—Europe, the Caribbean, Latin America, the United States, India—have bought art from Myriam or sought her appraisal services. Some have even written to thank her for helping them appreciate their artwork in a new way. As one person said, “Thank you so much for the appraisal—it is nice to know the value and treat it a little nicer!” Another wrote, “I think you have sparked a new interest in me. The paintings are extraordinary.”
But one of the most impactful interactions that Myriam has had in the business was when a client came up to her and asked if she could give him a painting for $100 that she was selling for $1,200. The painting was by a famous Haitian artist who had his work featured in exhibits and books from all over the world. The client reasoned that the painting was worth the significantly depreciated price because, “‘Well, Haiti is a poor country. Why would I be paying $1,200?’”
After describing this moment, Myriam asked me, “At first, what would you like to say, what would you feel like saying? Cursing?” She quickly followed up with a resounding, “No! Because why would you curse someone who is not educated? Makes sense?” When the client questioned the value of the painting, Myriam stayed calm and suggested that he “get educated” by visiting her website and reading up on Haitian art. She even recommended that he read Peintres Haitiens by Gerald Alexis, which she says is the best reference book about Haitian art. Myriam sells the book directly on her website, but she even offered to send the client a physical copy for free. Not to mention, she told him he could call and email her without charge if he had any questions.
The whole experience motivated Myriam to double her efforts in promoting Haitian art to the world. She remodeled her website and added as much information as possible about Haitian art. In the end, Myriam even said she felt thankful toward that client because it offered a sort of silver lining, an opportunity to improve. “That’s something I never hesitate to do, to improve myself,” she says, “I improve myself constantly. I don’t just rest on my laurels saying, I’m well-known, I’m reputable, I’m just sitting down here waiting for big clients to come to me, see what I offer. No; I work hard, and I don’t mind working hard because I truly believe in it.”
Myriam is fully committed to spreading the good word about Haitian art and promoting a more positive image of Haiti, “Maybe until I die. I will not retire.” She fully anticipates, “[The day] the market for Haitian art will be back. I’ll make sure it will be back! I’ll make sure people are aware of it, make sure that Haitians artists get the recognition that we deserve to have.” In preparation for when that day arrives, which Myriam will do everything in her power to ensure it is soon, she is doing her best to give back to Haiti however she can.
Last December, Myriam hosted a virtual benefit exhibition fundraiser for the Centre d’Art in Port-Au-Prince after approaching the Centre’s executive director. The Centre d’Art was founded in 1945 and has been supporting local artists ever since. “[Art is where I think] the future is for young people…A lot of them are migrating because they don’t see any future, they don’t see any hope for them… And I believe that those kinds of young people, we need to give them the chance to do something,” said Myriam. Her hope is that by continuing to promote and uplift the artists and their talents, such as through the Centre d’Art benefit, they will be able to stay home in Haiti and make a living from their paintings.
The phenomenon that Myriam would like to avoid see playing out is one in which Haiti’s talent has been outsourced from the island. Instead, the ideal situation is, “That more [artists] stay, and develop the country, so a better Haiti will be sooner…We want the good people, the good artists, we want everybody to be able to make a living and be able to stay in their country to help others.” As Myriam points out to me, behind every artist, there are five to ten Haitian people who are sharing the profits, because that is what Haitians do: They build solidarity with one another. “Every artist [whose] paintings are sold goes a long way in Haiti. Same for the Haitian artists in the diaspora. Life in the United States is not cheap.”
Elaborating further, Myriam says: “Buying a piece of Haitian art, it’s not just buying it, it’s supporting what’s behind it. You’re supporting a country that is struggling, that has been struggling for years and begging people to see what’s beautiful in it. But nobody seems to see what we have to offer, and everybody is focusing on the bad. Whereas if we focus on what is beautiful in Haiti and then we stop thinking or talking about what is not, then probably we have a better chance to show the world the value of what we have to offer.”
Myriam is a proud Haitian and Haitian art runs through her blood. She was born and raised in Haiti, and grew up in a family of Haitian art aficionados like herself. As Myriam writes on her website, her father, George S. Nader, was known as an “icon in the Haitian art world,” and he opened his internationally renowned Galerie d’Art Nader in 1966 and later the Musee d’art Nader in 1992 in Haiti. Myriam was involved in helping run the former before she moved to the United States. Presently, her brother and sister are also involved in the art business and run their own galleries in Haiti too.
“[Since] I was little, it was a straightforward answer for me [of what I wanted to do],” Myriam says, “If I had to open an art gallery, it would be for Haitian art.” But despite always knowing that she wanted to dedicate her life to Haitian art, Myriam acknowledges that there have been challenges. But she is not someone who allows obstacles to stand in her way. “I will not let anything discourage me, such as circumstances like a recession or the instability of any country. I keep going. What I do is that when there are these kinds of obstacles, I push forward,” she shares with me. “I take the time to put everything into perspective and say, what can I do better? What have I done, what should I do? I give myself time to restructure and improve myself and my business.”
Aside from being resilient, it is clear after spending the afternoon talking with Myriam, she has a drive and a passion for Haitian art that is unshakeable and inspiring. Myriam is committed to educating and exposing as many people as she can to the value, the richness, and the beauty of Haitian art and culture, and her deep familial connection to her home country and the art business, make that mission all the more special and important.
Speaking to Myriam, one can’t help but get excited to expand their knowledge and appreciation for Haitian art. To be able to instill that anticipation of learning not only represents her lifetime’s experience of working in the Haitian art business, but her gift of sharing what it means to be enveloped by one’s passion. It is a rare find for anyone to come across a person as loving of their country and their craft–which is exactly the kind of person Myriam is.
As my time with Myriam wraps up, there is only one thing left to do: Head over to the Myriam Nader Haitian Art Gallery and immerse myself in it.
A small sample of the many exquisite pieces can be found at the Myriam Nader virtual gallery, Source: Myriam Nader Haitian Art Gallery, NY YouTube
Fernanda Ponce is an undergraduate student studying Critical Race & Ethnic Studies at the University of Chicago. As the proud first generation Mexican American daughter of immigrants, Fernanda strives to enrich her knowledge of Latin America to better understand global, cultural, and socio-historical ties to the region. Through her writing, Fernanda hopes to further deepen her relationships with individuals and communities and respectfully share their stories with a wider audience to build greater understanding, appreciation, and connection with each other.