New Orleans: The Lotus in the Swamp

By Joe Sperrin

On 18th November this year, "Prospect" opened its latest edition (Prospect 4): The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp. The exhibition is a celebration of the artistic culture that has been generated in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Barkley L. Hendricks,  Self-Portrait , 1977, Oil and Acrylics on Linen Canvas, 16 x 12in, Courtesy of  2017

Barkley L. Hendricks, Self-Portrait, 1977, Oil and Acrylics on Linen Canvas, 16 x 12in, Courtesy of 2017

"Prospect 4" will be taking over the capital of jazz until the 25th February, 2018. The exhibition will showcase some of the city’s cultural highlights, such as John Akomfrah’s film about Charles “Buddy” Bolden, Louis Armstrong’s collages (for the first time ever) and much, much more. The arts festival is a celebration of the history of New Orleans, in honour of its three-hundredth anniversary, next year. The art will reflect both NOLA’s unique geography as the ‘lotus within the swamp’, but also its status as global centre and icon of the jazz tradition. Stars such as Louis Armstrong and Archie Shepp are figureheads for the city with their unique forms of music being closely intertwined with the New Orleans political culture and the Civil Rights Movement.

Margarita Cabrera,  Baby Grand Piano , 2005, Image: Ben Davis, Courtesy of  2017

Margarita Cabrera, Baby Grand Piano, 2005, Image: Ben Davis, Courtesy of 2017

In 2005 New Orleans was one of the cities most devastated by Hurricane Katrina, and the original aim of "Prospect" was to help rebuild.  Dan Cameron, the founder of "Prospect," chose New Orleans for the triennial festival, due to its rich history, and sees it as the perfect venue for an international art festival. Venues for the festival include: The New Orleans Jazz Museum at the U.S Mint, and the Contemporary Arts Centre New Orleans, right in the heart of the bustling city.

Yoko Ono,  Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?,  1967/1997, Image: Katherine Meynell, Courtesy of  2017

Yoko Ono, Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, 1967/1997, Image: Katherine Meynell, Courtesy of 2017

The exhibition was curated by Trevor Schoonmaker, a vital figure in the founding of the festival, and the art chosen reflects a global interest, with the likes of Margarita Cabrera and Yoko Ono making appearances. The collection is spread throughout the city, intertwining the experience of the art with the experience of its host city, being the lotus in the swamp. Other notable names include Barkley L. Hendricks, who is famous for his post-modern portraits and representation of life for the average citizen of New Orleans. Ultimately, this festival reflects an international collaboration of arts that honour artistic culture and its affects on the community. The influence of "Prospect" on the New Orleans art community remains strong beyond the main exhibition. P.S Satellites aim to “highlight and promote concurrent exhibitions and arts events organised by local and regional artists, curators, and cultural workers during the opening weekend and throughout the course of the Triennial.” Thus, the nature of this festival could not be more clear - to unify New Orleans in rejoicing in its culture, whether that be musical, artistic or any other form of artistic expression, and celebrating it for what it truly is - the Lotus in the swamp.

For more information about "Prospect," check out their website:



Prospect 4, “Prospect.4: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp”, Prospect.4, Accessed 21st Nov. 2017,

Da Silva, José, “New Orleans triennial Prospect.4 looks to Louisiana history, warts and all, The Art Newspaper. Accessed 21st Nov. 2017,

Davis, Ben, “See Highlights From the Just-Opened Prospect 4 Triennial in New Orleans” Artnet News. Accessed 21st Nov. 2017,