In Retrospect: 40 Years of the National Gallery of Jamaica – Minister Lisa Hanna’s Opening Speech

Minister Hanna (center) tours the exhibition with senior curator O'Neil Lawrence (right) and assistant curator Monique Barnett-Davidson (left) (Photo courtesy of Oliver Watt)

Minister Hanna (center) tours the exhibition with senior curator O’Neil Lawrence (right) and assistant curator Monique Barnett-Davidson (left) (Photo courtesy of Oliver Watt)

On Sunday, August 31, the Hon. Lisa Hanna, M.P., Minister of Youth and Culture, was the guest speaker at the opening of In Retrospect: 40 Years of the National Gallery of Jamaica, our 40th anniversary exhibition. the Minister’s opening remarks are below.

“We have come a far way.  Often in our haste to get on with the business of creating a better world, we do not take the time to just pause for a minute and to see the changes around us and the progress we have made as a government and as a people.”

“This year, we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the National Gallery of Jamaica.  When this Gallery began in November, 1974 it was the English-speaking Caribbean’s first national gallery.  Today is it the region’s oldest and largest national art museum.  The recent addition of National Gallery West in Montego Bay has further added to the Gallery’s reach and size.  That is progress!”

“Over its 40 years, the National Gallery has used art to tell the story of our people — how we see ourselves, how we project ourselves and how we understand ourselves.  It is interesting to see how our artists have captured and interpreted the ways in which our ideas have evolved with modernity and the enhancing our national confidence over the years.  That is also progress!”

“We will use this anniversary as an occasion to look back at progress. We will examine the outstanding developments in Jamaican art over the years — and the role that the Gallery has played in the shaping of the unique Jamaican art character.”

“This exhibition, which I have the duty and honour to open today, consists of 131 works of art — only a fraction of the collection that we’ve built up in 40 years — but these works provide a wide panorama of Jamaican art history, spanning four centuries.”

Karl Parboosingh - Cement Company (1966, AD Scott Collection, NGJ)

Karl Parboosingh – Cement Company (1966, AD Scott Collection, NGJ)

The exhibition features works from artists as diverse as Edna Manley, Mallica ‘Kapo’ Reynolds, Albert Huie, Barrington Watson, Karl Parboosingh, Carl Abrahams, Oneika Russell, Laura Facey, Maria LaYacona, Omari Ra, Cecil Baugh, Norma Rodney Harrack and David Boxer.

“I am very sorry that David Boxer wasn’t able to be with us today, but I especially wish to pay tribute to him.  The National Gallery owes a special debt to Dr Boxer who was our Chief Curator for several years and who served the organisation for thirty-seven years in all. Without any fear of contradiction whatsoever, I will say that no one has been as instrumental to the development of the National Gallery as Dr Boxer and we thank him for his service.”

“Dr Boxer continues to serve.  For the last year and a half he has been working on a special assignment at the Institute of Jamaica chronicling the development of Jamaican art.  We expect that his publication, when completed, will become one of the seminal pieces on Jamaica art which will inform and influence generations to come.”

“As we look back at the last 40 years at the National Gallery, we see progress made.  But we must also look ahead to the challenges and the opportunities.  There is great benefit and potential in art which we must use to improve the quality of life of our people.  I believe that access to art really does enhance one’s life.”

“So I gave a firm policy directive that the National Gallery must not only increase the number of exhibitions and attract new audiences, but must also ensure that it attracts younger artists and younger visitors.”

“And so over the last two years, we have taken deliberate actions to ensure that more Jamaicans have regular access to the collections at the National Gallery.”

“We introduced the Last Sundays programme, which has been bringing new audiences to the Gallery in a relaxed, educational and entertaining setting.”

“In addition, we introduced the culture card programme for high school students giving them unprecedented access to cultural offerings, including the exhibitions at the National Gallery.  The culture card programme was launched as a pilot last year in this room with 100 students from four high schools.  It is now being evaluated in preparation for the national roll out.”

“The gallery has been increasing its engagement with younger artists and I was very pleased with the series of acclaimed and innovative exhibitions, including: Young Talent 5 and New Roots which focused on the work of young contemporary Jamaican artists.”

Ebony G. Patterson - Cultural Soliloquy (Cultural Object Revisited) (2010, Collection: NGJ)

Ebony G. Patterson – Cultural Soliloquy (Cultural Object Revisited) (2010, Collection: NGJ)

“As Minister, one of my proudest achievements at the National Gallery over the two last years has been the development and opening of the National Gallery West as our new and permanent branch at the Montego Bay Cultural Centre in St James.  Through National Gallery West, we will bring the benefits of art, curated in this form to thousands more
Jamaicans.  This is real progress.”

“But this is only the beginning.  We have much more work ahead of us to encourage artists to produce works that inspire, perplex, delight, beautify and edify.  And more than ever, we must encourage the development of the business of art for wealth creation and poverty alleviation.  We must not leave our people’s economic security to chance!”

“And now, it gives me great pleasure to declare open IN RETROSPECT: 40 YEARS OF THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF JAMAICA.”

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