Jamaica Biennial 2014 – First Call

Ebony G. Patterson - The Observation (Bush Cockerel) — A fictitious History, video installation (detail), National Biennial 2012

Ebony G. Patterson – The Observation (Bush Cockerel) — A fictitious History, video installation (detail), National Biennial 2012

The NGJ is pleased to announce the Jamaica Biennial 2014 exhibition, which is scheduled to open on November 14, 2014 — the NGJ’s fortieth anniversary date — and which will close on March 14, 2015. This is the first notification for the exhibition. There have been several major changes to the exhibition and the submission rules – please read the attached Biennial brochure 2014 very carefully.

About the Biennial

In 1977, NGJ inaugurated the Annual National Exhibition, which in its twenty-five year run established itself as the premier national art exhibition in Jamaica. In 2002, the Annual National Exhibition was converted into the National Biennial to favour a stronger exhibition, giving artists more time for the development of ideas and work. Effective 2014, the Biennial has been renamed as the Jamaica Biennial.

Chung, Andrea - Come back to yourself

Andrea Chung – Come Back to Yourself (2012), collage – National Biennial 2012

For the staging of the 2014 Jamaica Biennial, the NGJ will be keeping many aspects of the established framework for previous Biennials but with some important changes to create a more dynamic Biennial that both acknowledges the growing regional and international networks that Jamaican artists participate in and supports the best of local art production. We are considering other entry options for future biennials but for now the entry process remains essentially the same: Jamaican artists may participate by either special invitation or the jury process. In addition, however, selected international and regional artists will be invited to do special projects during the exhibition. There will also be a call for proposals for National Gallery West, our new extension in Montego Bay, which will be open to Jamaican artists. The Biennial will open on November 14, 2014 to coincide with the Gallery’s 40th anniversary and also to better position it on the international art calendar.

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Opening Remarks of Charles Campbell at Be Uncaged exhibition

Nadine Hall - Sacred Bodies (2014), detail of installation - presently on view in Be Uncaged

Nadine Hall – Sacred Bodies (2014), detail of installation – presently on view in Be Uncaged

The NGJ’s Chief Curator Charles Campbell was the guest speaker at the April 3 opening of Be Uncaged, an exhibition of student work at the Edna Manley College’s CAG[e] gallery. Since his remarks have broader relevance, we decided to share them here. The exhibition, which was curated by the students in the Introduction to Curatorial Studies course, is well worth visiting and remains open at the College until April 17.

One of the questions I’m frequently asked is what I think of the art scene here. It’s a complicated question to answer. Are we talking about the artists that live here, the Island’s talent pool and what’s going on behind closed doors in studios and bedrooms across the island? Is it the quality of the exhibitions we get to see, the activity of the National Gallery and other spaces? Or are we talking about the health of the art market, commercial galleries and collectors? How about we talk about the nature of public support for the arts or we could consider the climate of debate, discussion and criticism, and then are we talking about what’s said on the verandas or what’s printed in the papers about Jamaican art? We can also look at the interest in Jamaican visual culture from the outside and the place Jamaican holds in the global imagination, or how well we participate in the growing and global network of Caribbean artists.

FriezeBy each of these measures we come up with very different conclusions about the state and health of Jamaican art. While this month we saw Ebony G. Patterson’s star rise further as she made history as the first Jamaican artist to appear on the cover of Frieze Magazine, the global economic downturn and local conditions have been an extreme challenge for artists in the commercial sector here. And while NLS is raising the bar as a critically engaged independent artists platform, last year’s close of the Mutual Gallery was the last brick to fall in a near total collapse of the local gallery scene. Depending on who you talk to you’ll hear stories of a healthy secondary market for art or one that is all but dead. Publicly there is little presence and no critical discussion in the papers about art in Jamaica, but privately, at least by my admittedly skewed experience, people are still passionately engaged with what’s happening. And while many have hailed the National Gallery’s exhibitions over the past couple of years as indicative of an exciting new direction for Jamaican art, others lament the decline of more traditional forms.

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Opportunity and Change

Mural by Ricky Culture

Street Mural by Ricky Culture (Ricardo Lawrence) – Kingston

The National Gallery of Jamaica will be celebrating its fortieth anniversary later this year, on November 14, 2014 to be precise. This anniversary provides us with an opportunity to celebrate, to reflect and to plot our course going forward. Here is a preview of what we have in store for you, written by Chief Curator Charles Campbell.

2014 is shaping up to be a big year for the National Gallery of Jamaica. It’s been forty years since we first opened our doors as a gallery to collect, research, document and preserve Jamaican and other Caribbean Art. As I begin to settle into my role here as the new Chief Curator this year’s milestone has been an opportunity to look at both the Gallery’s tremendous accomplishments and how we may wish to change.

To celebrate our fortieth anniversary we’ll be mounting an exhibition that looks at the gallery’s history and the role it’s played in the Jamaican art world. In Retrospect: 40 years of the National Gallery of Jamaica will examine how the Gallery has told our story and influenced how we understand art in Jamaica. We’ll be looking at everything from the crafting of the national narrative to controversies surrounding the development of the Intuitive canon to the role the gallery has played in cultivating young artists and notions of the avant garde. The exhibition opens on July 27 and will offer an interesting dialogue between some of Jamaica’s most senior artists and young contemporaries.


Before we get there though the gallery will be breaking new ground with our two exhibitions opening in May, Japan: Kingdom of Characters and Anything With Nothing: Art from the Streets of Urban Jamaica. Kingdom of Characters, which opens on May 11, comes to us via the Japanese Embassy and showcases Japanese character culture and the development of Anime and Manga characters through visual images, video and life-size models. The show is already generating significant interest from young artists and animators, and in a departure from our usual events we’ll be hosting a cosplaying party as part the programming for the exhibition.

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Jamaican Art Exhibition in Cayman

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The National Gallery of Jamaica is pleased to report that a exhibition of Jamaican art, Jamaican Art from the 1960s and 1970s, is presently on view at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands in Grand Cayman. The exhibition, which opened on Friday, March 21 to an enthusiastic capacity audience and continues until May 15, is the second Jamaican exhibition in the Cayman Islands that was brokered between the two country’s national galleries – the first one, an exhibition of contemporary Jamaican art, was held in 2004.

The present exhibition examines Jamaican art from around Jamaica’s Independence in 1962 to the politically eventful 1970s – one of the most culturally dynamic periods in Jamaican history – and consists of thirty works from the National Gallery of Jamaica Collection and two works from Cayman-based collections of Jamaican art. It includes later works by artists who were already established at that time, such as Edna Manley, Alvin Marriott, Albert Huie, David Pottinger and Carl Abrahams, and younger artists who emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, such as Barrington Watson, Eugene Hyde, Karl Parboosingh, Osmond Watson, Judy Ann MacMillan, Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds, Everald Brown, Gaston Tabois, Hope Brooks, George Rodney and Winston Patrick. The works were selected by NGJ Executive Director Veerle Poupeye and Acting Senior Curator O’Neil Lawrence.

“The National Gallery of the Cayman Islands is delighted host Jamaica Art: 1960s & 1970s from the collection of the National Gallery of Jamaica,” says National Gallery of the Cayman Islands Director Natalie Urquhart. “This exhibition marks an important international collaboration between NGCI and NGJ, and it is an opportunity to reflect and celebrate the long-standing social, cultural and economic relationships between our two countries.” The exhibition, which is one of several planned exchanges between the two national galleries, also reflects the NGJ’s present thrust towards greater regional engagement and visibility.

Last Sundays: March 30, 2014, featuring TRIAD and Religion and Spirituality


The National Gallery of Jamaica’s Last Sundays programme for March 2014 is scheduled for Sunday, March 30, from 11 am to 4 pm.

Visitors will also have the opportunity to view the National Gallery’s acclaimed Explorations II: Religion and Spirituality exhibition, which explores the role of religion and spirituality in Jamaican culture and history, by means of 68 works from the NGJ collections, some of them well known and others only rarely exhibited. The exhibition, which continues until April 27, includes work by artists such as Osmond Watson, Edna Manley, Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds, Carl Abrahams, Everald and Clinton Brown, Renee Cox, Ebony G. Patterson, Gloria Escoffery, Norma Rodney-Harrack and Omari Ra.

The featured performance for the day, which starts at 1:30 pm, will be an excerpt from the dance production TRIAD, which was choreographed by Kim-Lee Campbell, a full-time dancer and choreographer and a final year student in the BFA programme in Dance Performance and Choreography at the Edna Manley College. Campbell is the first recipient of the Institute of Jamaica’s Rex Nettleford Memorial Scholarship Award (2013) and her works have been featured in Jamaica Dance Umbrella, the annual University Dance Society Season of Dance and Danceworks. She is also the Project Director for a performing arts community development programme Yaad Arts in the August Town community.

TRIAD, which will be performed by Sophia McKain, Simone Harris and Nneka Staple, explores the similarities between three women who face sexuality-based discrimination, because of their style of dress. The three women take the audience on a journey through movement; exposing issues of love, their fears, anger, frustrations, anxiety and the many emotions that surface within the minds of the discriminated. The dance implores us to remember that we are all humans. Focused on understanding the body, mind and spirit connection; this piece is a holistic interrogation. The movement vocabulary for TRIAD evolves from a base of hatha yoga postures, abstracted and fused with Caribbean folk nuances, and encompasses a contemporary modern style. The movement writes to unique percussion soundscapes layered with the vocals of Sweet Honey in the Rock and poetry. TRIAD is a final year production that will be performed in full at the School of Dance, Edna Manley College on May 9, 2014.

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Presently on View: Selections from our International Collection

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Whenever our central and mezzanine galleries are not in use for our formal exhibitions, we mount selections of our permanent collection. We have just updated the display with selections from our International Collection, with a special focus on a group of works from the London Group. Here is the text panel for the London Group section of this temporary exhibit, which includes works which have not been on view for more than twenty years.

The London Group

These early London Group works were brought to Jamaica for exhibition by Edna Manley in 1937. Established in 1913 to contest the dominance of the Royal Academy and its conservative view on art, the London Group is one of the world’s oldest continuing artists’ collectives and continues to promote the work of contemporary artists working outside of institutional settings.

The London Group was an influential resource for Manley and a strong connection can be seen between the painting styles of its early members and the “Institute Group”, the collection of Jamaican artists that Manley herself was instrumental in cultivating. Manley joined the London Group in 1930, the same year as British sculptor Henry Moore. Both the Group’s representational approach and interest in Modernism made it a good fit for the Jamaican nationalist school as it looked for ways to picture a forward looking and confident nation.

Frank Bowling, whose large abstract work Maverick is also shown in this gallery, is a current member of the Group, having joined in 1963. Ronald Moody’s 1938 sculptural head Tacet is from the same period as many of the London Group works shown here. Though not a member of the Group, the Jamaican born Moody lived and worked in London since the 1920′s and it is there he became a sculptor of note.