Kingston: Institutions and Collections

Phannel Toussiant - National gallery of Jamaica, Devon House (rgb)

Phannel Toussaint – National gallery Ballroom, Devon House (1980), Collection: NGJ

Here is another feature on the Kingston – Part 1: The City and Art exhibition:

As we speak of “crossroads” and opportunities, we have to recognize that Kingston is also the centre of cultural infrastructure in Jamaica. This includes the two main visual arts institutions, the Edna Manley College and the National Gallery of Jamaica, and several major corporate art collections. Jamaica’s main private art collections are also located in Kingston. This Kingston-centeredness is slowly changing as governmental and corporate authorities as well as other private interests have been employing strategies to de-centralize the infrastructural dominance of Kingston. The 2014 establishment of the Montego Bay Cultural Centre, which houses the National Gallery of Jamaica’s Montego Bay branch National Gallery West, is one such example. That being said, this section of the exhibition acknowledges a selection of those Kingston-based entities that have been key pillars for the development of visual art practice and promotion in Jamaica, and have also contributed to urban development and renewal.

Devon House

Sidney McLaren – Devon House (1979), Collection: NGJ

The Institute of Jamaica, which was established in 1879, is the oldest cultural institution in Jamaica and has been pivotal in the development of national art exhibition programming and art educational opportunities, especially from the 1930s to the present. The National Gallery of Jamaica has its origins in the pioneering art collecting and exhibition programmes of the Institute and presently operates as one of its divisions. Established in 1974 at Devon House on Hope Road and then relocated to the Roy West Building on the Kingston Waterfront in 1982, the National Gallery of Jamaica functions as the custodian of carefully developed collections of Jamaican art, representing more than ten centuries of artistic history in our country. Other Institute of Jamaica divisions that have been involved in the visual arts are the Junior Centre and the National Library of Jamaica, before the latter attained autonomy. The Junior Centre hosted Edna Manley’s seminal free adult art classes that started in 1939 and served as a meeting place for the members of the emerging nationalist school, and it continues to offer children’s art programmes today.

Whitney Miller - Little North Street (rgb)

Whitney Miller – Little North Street (1963), Collection: Edna Manley College

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In Retrospect – Section 6: MAJOR DONATIONS

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Here is the final sectional panel from the ‘In Retrospect: 40 Years of the National Gallery of Jamaica‘ exhibition. The exhibition continues until November 15, 2014.

The National Gallery has received many donations to its collection over the years, and this is perhaps the main reason the collection has grown to its present size and quality, despite very limited resources. The present exhibition cannot feature all donations the National Gallery has received over the last forty years but highlights of three major ones can be viewed on the mezzanine, circulating area and adjoining galleries, namely:

A.D. Scott Collection: in 1990, the National Gallery received 38 major works from the most important private collection of the 1960s and 70s, namely the collection of A.D. Scott, a well-known civil engineer and art patron and the founder and operator of the Olympia International Art Centre, which opened in 1974. The collection reflects Scott’s close association with the key figures in post-Independence art in Jamaica, namely the principals of the Contemporary Jamaican Artists Association Barrington Watson, Eugene Hyde and Karl Parboosingh, but also other major figures such as Carl Abrahams, Edna Manley, Albert Huie, Osmond Watson and Christopher Gonzalez, who are all represented in this section with major examples of their work.

Aaron and Marjorie Matalon Collection: Aaron Matalon, a leading entrepreneur of the post-Independence period, was a major patron of the arts and the National Gallery’s Chairman from 1993 to 2002. In 1999, Mr Matalon and his spouse donated a collection of 218 works of art, the largest and arguable most important donation to be received by the Gallery. The Matalon Collection includes prints and other works of art from the colonial period, starting with the earliest published map of Jamaica, and modern Jamaican art. A significant portion of the Aaron and Marjorie Matalon collection is on permanent view in the historical galleries but this section features a selection of the modern works.

Guy McIntosh Donation: The most recent major donation received by the National Gallery came from art dealer and collector Guy McIntosh and consisted of 80 works of art, mainly by artists who had come to prominence in the 1980s and 90s, such as Milton George and Omari Ra.

Several other major donations remain in their usual place in the permanent galleries and we invite you to view them there. One is the Edna Manley Memorial Collection, which the result of a major campaign for donations after Edna Manley’s passing in 1989, with major donations coming from of Michael Manley, Burnett Webster, A.D. Scott, Aaron and Marjorie Matalon, David Boxer, Wallace Campbell, the Pan-Jamaican Investment Fund and the ICD Group – these works can be seen in the Edna Manley Galleries. Another major donation was the John Pringle Collection, a group of 23 paintings by Mallica ‘Kapo’ Reynolds from the estate of the John Pringle, Jamaica’s first Director of Tourism and the founder of Round Hill Hotel and Villas. This collection was received in 2011 and a selection can be seen in the Kapo Galleries.

In Retrospect: 40 Years of the NGJ – Introduction

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As has become customary for all our exhibitions, we are publishing the text panels in the In Retrospect: 40 Years of the National Gallery of Jamaica exhibition. Here is the introduction:

When the National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ) opened its doors on November 14, 1974 it was the English-speaking Caribbean’s first national gallery, and forty years later it is the region’s oldest and largest national art museum. The recent addition of National Gallery West at the Montego Bay Cultural Centre, has further added to its reach and size. Since 1974, the NGJ has held over one hundred and thirty exhibitions and established an encyclopaedic collection of Jamaican art. Through the process of amassing and exhibiting the art of Jamaica it has done more than preserve and display Jamaica’s artistic heritage. What the NGJ has truly excelled at is telling a story (‘the’ story, the NGJ has at times claimed) of Jamaican art, crafting the raw material of artists, artworks and anecdotes into a coherent narrative that resonates with how Jamaicans see and understand themselves in the world.

When the original two-hundred and sixty-two paintings and sculptures from the Institute collection arrived in 1974, the NGJ inherited a set of artworks but not a cohesive art history and its new Director/Curator, David Boxer, who joined the staff in 1975, embarked on articulating such an art history. What we now know about Jamaican art has been the product of dedicated research and, at times, fortuitous discovery, but still the process of compiling facts and perspectives into history is a storyteller’s art. This story has been told through our exhibitions and publications, through major donations, and even through the controversies that have swirled around the NGJ from its earliest years. It is a story about personalities, about nation building and competing interests and perspectives, and about articulating who Jamaicans are as a people.

The task we have set ourselves with In Retrospect: Forty Years of the National Gallery of Jamaica is to tell the story of that story, examining with a critical eye the role the NGJ has played in establishing how Jamaican art is understood. Since our acquisitions are an integral part of that story, the exhibition consists mainly of works from our collection, supplemented with a few loans and works that are presently in acquisition. For our examination of the NGJ’s history to be manageable, decisions had to be made about what to include and what to leave out. We do not claim that this exhibition provides an exhaustive overview of the NGJ’s history—this story, too, could have been told in a number of different ways—but we have sought to represent what we consider to be key events and developments.

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The A.D. Scott Collection

Barrington Watson – portrait of A.D. Scott (c1969), A.D. Scott Collection, NGJ

For some time now, the NGJ has been refurbishing and reinstalling its permanent collections and in 2010 we started work on the modern Jamaican section, “Jamaican Art: the 20th Century”. We have now continued this process and incorporated into this section a gallery with selections from the A.D. Scott Collection, a major group of donations to the NGJ that provide a vivid picture of Jamaican art in the post-Independence decades. Scott was very actively involved in the art of that period, by means of the Contemporary Jamaican Artists’ Association, which he chaired for many, his friendships with Barrington Watson, Eugene Hyde and Karl Parbooshingh, and the 1974 establishment of the Olympia International Art Centre. With the Barrington Watson retrospective currently on view, until April 14, and the Jamaica 50 observations in progress, we could not think of a better moment to open this new section of our permanent exhibitions. Here is more about A.D. Scott and the A.D. Scott Collection:

Ainsworth David Scott, OD (1912-2004)

A.D. Scott, or ‘Scotty” as he was affectionately referred to by those familiar with him, was born in Kingston, Jamaica on January 27, 1912. A.D. Scott was among the first to attend the Kingston College which was established in 1925.

Later, he studied at the McGill University in Montreal, Canada, gaining a Bachelors Degree in Civil Engineering. Whilst in Canada, he further developed his skills as a highly competent engineer, securing key positions including Senior Assistant Engineer in the Royal Canadian Air Force and engineer-in-charge of Aerodrome Construction for the Canadian Government. Upon his return to Jamaica in 1945, he was appointed engineer-in-charge of construction for the University College of the West Indies. His later contributions to national infrastructural development would include the construction of the U.W.I Chapel, the National Stadium and the Hope Reservoir, earning him the title of Jamaican Master Builder.

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