NGJ Hosts Successful IRPC Poster Auction

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The National Gallery of Jamaica came alive for the gallery’s Last Sundays programme June 30 which began with Sparrow Martin and the Ska Sonics blessing the place with wonderful music and knowledge. And then,150 people filled the the lower and upper gallery for the International Reggae Poster Contest (IRPC) auction. Benefiting the Alpha Institute School of Music, it was a lively and friendly competition between art, music and development supporters hoping to go home with their favorite poster design. Paperboy JA, the local IRPC print partner, and The Denizen JA,which contributed paintings inspired by the contest, helped to make the event a signature weekend event. All partners are glad to announce proceeds in the amount of  JA$412,749.98 in support of Alpha’s academic and vocational training for at risk youth.

Senior Director of the National Gallery, Jonathan Greenland, said he was particularly pleased. “We don’t have the opportunity to do activities like this very often. I’m glad to see the large turnout and excitement.  It is wonderful to know that the relationship between the International Reggae Poster Contest and Alpha will continue.”

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Carolyn Cooper opened the event on behalf of the IRPC. Cooper said the IRPC is an important cultural activity. “I’m delighted to represent Maria Papaefstathiou on this occasion. In March, she came to Jamaica for the National Gallery’s reception for the reggae poster exhibition. Regretfully, she could not return for today’s auction. It’s such a pleasure working with Maria in support of the International Reggae Poster Contest. Of all the cultural work I do, the IRPC is especially rewarding. The proceeds of the poster auction will go to the Alpha Institute which has nurtured so many generations of Jamaican musicians. Let’s all support this most worthy cause!”

Since 2012, the IRPC has been a strong supporter of the The Alpha Institute. The late co-founder, Michael Thompson donated his 2011 poster design which became Alpha’s iconic logo. And Maria Papaefstathiou, his colleague and co founder, has been tireless with her own service to the school and in helping Alpha connect with new supporters worldwide.

Sister Susan Fraser, whose idea it was to ask Michael Thompson if Alpha could use his image has its logo in 2012, notes the impact the visual arts have made for her students. “I remember when we first started printing tee shirts with Michael’s logo. At the time some Alpha students were uncomfortable letting people know they lived in an orphanage. When shirts with Michael’s logo starting being printed students suddenly wanted to wear the shirt and represent Alpha. In that sense, visual art is still helping to transform the lives of Alpha boys and we will always be grateful for that.”

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Douglas Reid, the poster auctioneer and owner of Grosvenor Galleries, was also there in 2012. “I noticed a little different vibe this time around. People came ready to bid this year. The first time we did it, patrons were not sure what to do perhaps. This time, things got started quickly and it was a lot of fun.”

O’Neil Lawrence, Chief Curator at the National Gallery of Jamaica, says the gallery is honoured to have been involved in this fundraising initiative. “We have been able to maintain a close relationship with Alpha since the first Reggae Poster Exhibition and look forward to the future of our association. We have also featured many current and past students of the school’s music programme at our Last Sunday’s openings and it has been a mutually beneficial association. Special thanks to the IRPC and the Alpha Institute for doing their part to make this a success.”

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18th Century Jamaican Painting Auctions for US$80,000

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A painting by the Jamaica-born 18th century artist, musician and botanist Samuel Felsted (1743-1802) has just sold at auction for US$ 80,000, or more than Ja$ 10 million, in an auction of American furniture, folk and decorative arts at Freeman’s, the oldest US auction house, based in Philadelphia. The National Gallery of Jamaica had made a bid within the auction house’s estimate of US$ 10-15,000 but was quickly outbid. The lot, a painting titled A North-East View of the House of Mr. Emanuel Lousada, Kingston, Jamaica (1778) went to an as yet unidentified bidder on the floor.

Freeman’s auction web page had the following to say about Feldsted and the painting at auction:

“William Felsted, the father of Samuel Felsted, was an English-born merchant, ironmonger and organist, who arrived in Jamaica in the 1730s, but was in Boston in 1737, petitioning to establish a shop. In 1741, before returning to Jamaica, William Felsted married Joyce Weaver at Christ Church in Philadelphia. Samuel Felsted was born in Jamaica in 1743, was a property owner by the age of 19, and baptized as an Anabaptist in 1763 at the age of 20. He married Maria Laurence, daughter of a plantation owner, in 1770, and they eventually had eight children.”

“In 1771, Felsted was admitted to the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia–one of four Jamaicans to be accepted to the organization in the 18th century. In support of his application for membership and due to his interest in botany, Felsted sent drawings of Jamaican butterflies. Dr. James Smith, a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas in Jamaica, in a letter of support for Felsted’s membership wrote, ‘Mr. Samuel Felsted, an ingenious young Gentleman of good reputation in this Town applied to me for an introduction to the members of your newly established Society, expressing a great desire to become a correspondent; being long convinced of his merit in the three Sister Sciences: Poetry, Painting and Music for which he has natural genius.’ Smith continues, ‘His education has been rather confined, but by great industry and force of native genius, he has recommended himself to the wise and learned of this island.’ After his admission to the Philosophical Society, Felsted sent plans for a horizontal windmill designed to power sugar mills. For most of his life, Felsted was the organist at St. Andrew Parish Church in Kingston, and is best known today as the composer of the first complete oratorio written in the New World– “Jonah,” published in London in 1775.”

“Emanuel Baruh Lousada (1740-1797 or 1807) was a prominent Jewish merchant, land owner and trader in Kingston with family business connections throughout the West Indies and London. Lousada married an English cousin, Esther Lousada, who died in 1775, and later his brother Daniel’s widow, Rachel. The Lousadas traced their ancestry to Granada, Spain and frequently used a Coat-of-Arms as seen in this painting”

The painting is of significant historical interest and the rather static composition is enlivened by an interesting detail, a horse and carriage scene with uniformed black driver and attendant, which more actively references the social dynamics of the 18th century than the depiction of the house in itself. Produced some fifty years before Belisario and Kidd, Felsted’s commissioned painting and his efforts in the field of music also illustrate the early beginnings of professional art practice in Jamaica.

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Valerie Facey was instrumental in the redisovery of Felsted’s pioneering oratorio in the late 1980s and her Mill Press reproduced the booklet for Felsted’s Jonah oratorio in 1990. The oratorio was performed at the St Andrew Parish Church on that occasion. As the musicologist Pamela O’Gorman wrote at that time: “There is no excitement quite like that of making a discovery which confounds all one’s preconceived notions, or opens up new areas of knowledge, about an aspect of history that had hitherto been obscure or neglected.” The discovery of the painting at auction today illustrates that Felsted requires further research and attention as a historical figure in Jamaica.

More about Felsted can be read here.