Isaac Mendez Belisario, Sketches of Character: French Set Girls (1837-38)

Isaac Mendez Belisario, Sketches of Character: French Set Girls (1837-38)

In 2008, the NGJ started reorganizing and re-installing its permanent exhibitions, which are now all located on the second floor of the building, while the first floor is reserved for temporary exhibitions. The re-installation reflects new exhibition practices in art galleries and museums and is designed to be more engaging and visitor-friendly. Among others, we are providing more contextual information by means of text panels and we are also challenging some of the common views about Jamaican art, culture and history, by means of provocative juxtapositions.

The historical galleries, the first part of the permanent collection to be tackled, reopened October 2008. This display includes four major Taino carvings, one of the New Seville carvings, early maps of Jamaica, sculpture, paintings and prints from the Plantation and immediate post-Emancipation era, as well as Abolitionist images and strategically placed slavery artefacts that remind of what usually remains untold in Plantation-era art. The historical galleries culminate with paintings and the famous Sketches of Character lithograph series of the first documented Jamaican-born artist, Isaac Mendez Belisario, who was active in the period around Emancipation.

The project now continues with the Edna Manley Galleries, which will reopen by October 24.  In its new location and with links to the 20th Century Exhibition – the Edna Manley Galleries showcase and reiterate the importance of this artist’s pivotal role in the development of Jamaican art and its associated themes and iconic images. The exhibition has been completely redesigned and will showcase some the most important examples of her work and seeks to  explore and reveal the complete arc of her artistic development. Included are important documents, works on paper and archival material that help to deepen our understanding of this influential Jamaican artist and sharpen our appreciation of her contribution to Jamaican art.

Our overhaul of the permanent exhibition galleries will continue in the re-launch of the 20th century Galleries (Jamaican art 1922-Present) and the Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds Galleries during the course of 2010. The 20th century galleries house  the majority of works in our permanent collection (with galleries sectioned to reflect a decade by decade chronology) and showcase important masterpieces by many of our pioneers as well as key contemporary artists. The Kapo Galleries will house the Larry Wirth Collection of Kapo’s work, along with a major donation of Kapo paintings. Like the Edna Manley Galleries, the Kapo galleries will provide an in-depth overview of the work of one of Jamaica’s most important Intuitive painters and sculptors.

Directed by our Chief Curator, Dr. David Boxer, our new permanent installations are a work in progress, subject to regular changes and updates. We don’t want them to be too permanent! Among others, we are looking into including at least of few of those rare objects and images that represent the visual arts of the African-Jamaican population into the pre-twentieth gallery, since that is a part of the story that has yet to be adequately told.

R. Cartwright (lithographer), Baptist Chapel, St. Ann's Bay (c1840)

R. Cartwright (lithographer), Baptist Chapel, St. Ann's Bay (c1840)

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