Archer-Straw, Petrine

Full Name
Archer-Straw, Petrine
Other Names
Petrine Archer
PA Straw
P Archer-Straw
Pet Archer-Straw
Date Born
26 December 1956
Date Died
05 December 2012
Place Died
Home Country
Subject Area

Historian of art, educator, and curator who specialized in art of the Caribbean. Born in Great Britain to Jamaican parents, Archer-Straw attended the University of the West Indies in 1975 where she completed her B.A. in Theology, History, and Sociology in 1978. She also trained in visual arts at the Jamaica School of Art from 1979 to 1982, receiving a diploma in painting. She went on to receive a M. Phil in Cultural History (1983-1987). She later gained her M.A. and PhD in art history, completing a dissertation in 1994 titled Negrophilia: Paris in the 1920's ; a Study of the Artistic Interest in and Appropriation of Negro Cultural Forms in Paris During that Period, in Art History from the Courtauld Institute at the University of London, where she subsequently taught between 1994 and 1995.

After receiving her doctorate in 1994, she worked as a consultant for a number of institutions in the Caribbean and Great Britain including the Royal Academy, London where she was coordinating editor for the exhibition and publication Africa: the Art of a Continent (1995). Archer-Straw assisted curator and editor Tom Phillips (b. 1937) on the book version, specifically, the over 600 pages that document the continent, including ancient Egypt and Nubia, North and Northwestern Africa as well as the sub-Saharan region. In 1990 Archer-Straw published Jamaican Art, the first scholarly book on that subject. The book was co-authored with editor-in-chief of Jamaica Journal and Caribbean Quarterly Kim Robinson-Walcott (b. 1956), in addition to a foreword by curator of the National Gallery of Jamaica, David Boxer (b. 1946). She chronicled for the first time the evolution of Jamaican art, highlighting key artists in the nation’s history, like well-known sculptor Edna Manley (1900-1987), David Pottinger (1911-2007), Cecil Baugh (1908-2005), and Carl Abrahams (1913-2005). Her essays emphasize the distinctive and diverse nature of Jamaican art, despite its inherent connections to the European art scene, especially within the United Kingdom. In 2000, Archer-Straw was also the editor and curator of Fifty Year: Fifty Artists, an exhibition and publication in commemoration of a 50-year milestone in the development of fine art training in Jamaica, for the School of Visual Arts (Jamaica). Archer-Straw wrote two essays for the book, the first an introduction about the College's history and the second an examination of the development of its fine arts programs. Fifty years-Fifty Artists demonstrated the significant progression in fine arts teaching since the Jamaica School of Arts and Crafts received its charter back in the 1950s under the guidance of its founder, Edna Manley (1900-1987). Archer-Straw became famous for her publication of her revised dissertation Negrophilia: Avant-Garde Paris and Black Culture in the 1920s, 2000, which discusses Europeans fetishization and passion for Black culture that accompanied the mass exodus of African-American artists, writers, and musicians following WWI.

Most of Archer-Straw's work focused on Jamaica and Jamaican artists. Her exhibitions included: “New World Imagery: Contemporary Jamaican Art” (South Bank Centre and National Touring Exhibitions, 1995), “Photos and Phantasms: Harry Johnston's Photographs of the Caribbean” (Royal Geographical Society, London, 1998). After the founding of the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas in 1996, she developed the curatorial policies of the Gallery until 2002. Archer-Straw worked with the National Gallery of Jamaica where she had been a visiting curator member of the Board of Directors from 2000 until her death. Between 2002 and 2004, she worked with the School of Visual Arts in Jamaica where she designed the college’s first degree program in art history. In 2005, she co-curated with Richard Powell (b.1953) and David A Bailey (b.1961) the exhibition “Back to Black (Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2005), which She was also arts editor and a consistent writer for the Jamaica Journal, a quarterly for the sciences and arts, published by the Institute of Jamaica. Her articles primarily focus on historical themes of the African diaspora and artistic connections across the Atlantic.

In her final years, she co-curated the online exhibition About Face: Revisiting Jamaica’s First Exhibition in Europe with Claudia Hucke (b.1976), Senior Lecturer in Art History at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, in Kingston, Jamaica. Archer-Straw died unexpectedly, aged 55, as the result of a sickle-cell crisis.

Selected Bibliography
  • [dissertation:] Negrophilia: Paris in the 1920's. A Study of the Artistic Interest in and Appropriation of Negro Cultural Forms in Paris During that Period. University of London, 1994
  • Jamaican Art: An Overview 1922 – 1982, Kingston Publishers, 1989; a survey of contemporary Jamaican Art
  • Home and Away: Seven Jamaican Artists London: The Arts Council, 1994;
  • New World Imagery: Contemporary Jamaican Art London: National Touring Exhibitions, 1995;
  • Africa: The Art of a Continent (Ed) Royal Academy, London: Prestel Verlag, 1995;
  • Photos and Phantasms: Harry Johnston’s Photographs of the Caribbean, London: The British Council, 1998;
  • Negrophilia: Avant-Garde Paris and Black Culture in the 1920s, Thames & Hudson: London, 2000;
  • Fifty Years - Fifty Artists (Ed) Ian Randle Publishers: Kingston, 2000;
  • Creolite and Creolization, Documenta 11- Platform 3, kessel, 2002;
  • One Man’s Vision: The D’Aguilar Collection. National Art Gallery of The Bahamas: Nassau, 2003;
  • Past, Present and Personal; The Dawn Davies Collection. National Art Gallery of The Bahamas: Nassau, 2004;
  • Back to Black: Art, Cinema and the Racial Imaginary. Whitechapel Gallery: London, 2005;