Kingston Biennial Update

The inaugural Kingston Biennial has been postponed until December 2021.


The National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ) has postponed its new flagship exhibition the Kingston Biennial until December 5, 2021. The decision to postpone this international exhibition is an acknowledgement of the objective and logistical challenges currently facing the worldwide community due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Originally scheduled to open on December 13, 2020, the Kingston Biennial’s curatorial team is being led by David Scott, Chair of the Department of Anthropology, Columbia University, founder and editor of the journal Small Axe, and curator of Caribbean Queer Visualities and “The Visual Life of Social Affliction.”


Scott is joined by co-curators O’Neil Lawrence, the Chief Curator at the National Gallery of Jamaica; Wayne Modest, Head of Research for Material Culture for the Tropenmuseum, Museum Volkenkunde, the Afrika Museum and the Wereldmuseum, in the Netherlands; and Nicole Smythe-Johnson, writer and independent curator, currently a PhD student at the University of Texas, Austin.

Pressure is the theme of the the 2021 Kingston Biennial which will feature the work of artists based locally, and in the Caribbean Diaspora, selected by the curatorial team. The exhibition will be accompanied by extended city-wide programming aimed at provoking engagement and discussion beyond the walls of the National Gallery. Pressure, according to the Curatorial Director, David Scott, “…is a profoundly resonant and vivid term—really a keyword—that maps an interconnected range of historically rooted experiences that evoke an environment burdened with difficulties and hardships.”

“The whole history of Jamaica could be written as a story of pressure. But it is not a solely passive experience. It’s not a condition undergone, endured, tolerated, and it is not intended to signal a sense of victimhood and victimization. To the contrary, what is instructive about the Jamaican experience and the idiom of pressure is that it has always had a generative and dissenting quality about it.

“Pressure is a source of critical and creative counter-powers and creative oppositional activity. It is an inspiring human resource, and historically it has been deeply fertile ground for some of the most brilliant works of Jamaican cultural achievement. We will be thinking about and looking at this process in a very contemporary sense. In this endeavour to think about the role of pressure in Jamaican life, the curators will engage with the relation between visual art practice and the larger social, cultural, political and economic life that is our nation, Jamaica.

“The biennial is an exhibitionary form, a model for showing art to publics. Over the past decade or more, this form has grown in significance, such that biennials have become the most important art events in the global art world. Biennials have helped put cities on the global cultural map and helped to give voice to otherwise invisible art practices. In our view, Kingston should be part of this global process. As one of the oldest world cities with a varied and vibrant cultural life, Kingston has a lot to offer the global art world. And, as the curators urge, pressure is precisely an idiom in which to accentuate what is most creative in Jamaica.”

“The Kingston Biennial will now be more in line with other biennials around the world.  We have a great team of curators, a good theme, a lot of talented artists and a complicated global environment so our audiences can expect a fascinating Kingston Biennial in 2021,” said Dr Jonathan Greenland, Senior Director of the National Gallery of Jamaica. “We were tremendously excited to start the planning of this new venture in 2019 and will continue to work to produce the best possible exhibition for its new date.”

If there are any questions, please contact the National Gallery of Jamaica.

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