Vincent D'Aguilar

Emblazoned on the D'Aguilar Coat of Arms, "Conatus et Cultus," (translated to mean Enterprise and Culture), is emblematic of Vincent D'Aguilar's numerous contributions to the Bahamas.

Vincent D'Aguilar

A graduate of Queen's College in Nassau in 1949, D'Aguilar continued his education at the Faraday House Engineering College in London, England on a Bahamas Electricity Corporation Scholarship. In 1968, having left BEC, D'Aguilar and his brother, Adrian, opened Superwash - now the largest self-service laundromat franchise in the Bahamas. In 1979, the brothers ventured into the hospitality industry and purchased the Dolphin Hotel on West Bay Street solidifying D'Aguilar's status as a master of enterprise.

Consequently, D'Aguilar was asked to serve as Director on several boards and committees, including: the Bahamas Hotel Association, the Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board, J.S. Johnson, BEC, Commonwealth Bank, and Family Guardian. D'Aguilar also served two terms as President of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce - from 1977 to 1979 and again from 1985 to 1986.

In July of 1998, D'Aguilar received the Commonwealth of the Bahamas Silver Jubilee Award - the first of many awards in recognition of the tremendous role he played in the development of the Bahamian business community. The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce recognized D'Aguilar as "Business Person of the Year" in 2000, and honored him with the Chamber's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.

It is with this same insightful approach D'Aguilar took to business that he made the decision to bolster the Bahamian cultural community. Growing up, D'Aguilar did not have much interest in Bahamian art. He recalled as a child watching Hildegarde Hamilton in the streets painting landscapes and fauna around Nassau, but as an adult had no real desire to collect. However, D'Aguilar and his wife Marina always enjoyed visiting the museums and galleries abroad and were awed by the masterpieces they viewed.

It was during their travels that D'Aguilar began collecting Chinese antiques and furniture. While doing so, D'Aguilar made an influential discovery - the collector acquires more than a physical object but also the history, philosophy, and inspiration which accompany it. D'Aguilar, then, immersed himself in the culture of visual arts. He built a library of art books, subscribed to art magazines, travelled to museums and galleries and kept abreast of trends in the international art market. As the couple came to realize that most homes in the Bahamas were devoid of art, they took it upon themselves, in the early 1970's, to become patrons of Bahamian art and discredit the misconception that, "nobody thinks Bahamians can paint."

Initially, D'Aguilar acquired a few pieces by Angelo Roker who owned an Arts and Antiques store on Harold Road and was a rather persuasive salesperson. Between 1970 and 1989, D'Aguilar had collected 23 paintings by Bahamian artists. By the 1990's, D'Aguilar was enjoying a certain level of financial freedom and at the end of the decade the collection had increased tenfold. Already, he was the possessor of one of the most refined, albeit atypical, collections of Bahamian art in the world. In 1993, D'Aguilar was asked to open the JAMMIN II exhibition; a project he had hoped would develop Bahamian art further and inspire emerging artists to follow their passion. Furthermore, it was D'Aguilar's support of Bahamian art that got Amos Ferguson's work on the cover of the Ancestral Lineage of Africa exhibition and catapulted Bahamian art into the international market.

By 1995, D'Aguilar was appointed founding Co-Chairman of the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas (NAGB) and for several years pushed for the government to create a space to display Bahamian art. In fact, it was at D'Aguilar's behest that the then Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Ingraham agreed to fund the renovation and repurposing of Villa Doyle as the new residence for the country's permanent collection. In 1997, D'Aguilar became the only non artist to ever receive the E. Clement Bethel Award for the Arts.

It was undeniable the contribution that D'Aguilar had made to the visual arts community in the Bahamas, a fact made evident in 2003, during the inaugural year of the NAGB. As a testament to the comprehensive nature of the D'Aguilar collection, works from his collection were included in all five of the NAGB's inaugural exhibitions. Additionally, D'Aguilar was offered the first exhibition in a series of collector's exhibitions entitled One Man's Vision, which took an in depth look at the development of Bahamian art during his lifetime.

In the eyes of the artists, however, D'Aguilar's most important contribution was the relationship he built with the Bahamian art community. D'Aguilar was more than an investor in art; he invested in the artist. The simple act alone of appreciating an artists' work was sufficient encouragement for an artist to feel that their vocation was valuable, and that their voice heard. For this, D'Aguilar was "credited with making it possible for Bahamian artists to be serious, disciplined and dedicated to their craft." He admired the artists' ability to express the emotions that he and his compatriots could identify with. D'Aguilar was able to get into the mind of the artists and offer constructive criticisms, compel the artist to challenge themselves and stretch beyond any self-imposed limitations or fears (while also giving title to previously untitled works of their abstract art).

Vincent Y. D'Aguilar loved and understood art. Perhaps, this is his greatest contribution. Nevertheless, he planted the seed to build a collection of Bahamian art which rivals that of any other nation in the world. Perhaps, this is his greatest success.