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.

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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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Jamaica’s Art Pioneers: Milton Harley and the Right to Abstraction

Milton Harley - Mayan 1, (c1976), Collection: NGJ

Milton Harley – Mayan 1, (c1976), Collection: NGJ

In March 1963, almost a year after Jamaican Independence, the late Rex Nettleford gave the main address at an art exhibition held at the now defunct Hills Gallery in Kingston. This public exhibition was considered to be the first of its kind in Jamaica to feature paintings and drawings that were solely abstract in nature. The works were created by a young Jamaican artist named Milton Harley and it was his first solo exhibition in the island, since graduating from the Pratt Institute in New York the previous year. In response to an expressed concern that the work of Jamaican artists must be relevant to the redefinition of Jamaican cultural identity at that time,, Nettleford was quoted as saying that, “The most we can demand of him is that he works to the pulse of Jamaica and that he allows Jamaican life to act as a catalyst for thought and expression in the arts.” Heavily influenced by the later exploits of the Abstract Expressionist movement, as an art student in New York during the 1960s, Harley remembers: “When I returned to Jamaica from New York I brought back all these ideas of painting from the New York School in particular, where I saw shows of the giants like Robert Motherwell, Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning.”

Milton Harley - Nocture (1962), Collection: NGJ

Milton Harley – Nocture (1962), Collection: NGJ

Milton Harley was born in Kingston 1935, and at a young age migrated with his family to the USA. One of the earliest pioneers of modern abstraction in Jamaican art, Harley’s visual rhetoric seemed to contrast with the cultural aspirations of other prominent Jamaican artists, social theorists and the general populace of the early Independence period. His aesthetic approach introduced the act of painting as directly engaged with its own material and elemental possibilities, without the illusion of objective imagery. As an abstractionist, he identifies and utilizes the elemental essences of the ‘real’ (such as form, texture, colour, etc.) to create an alternative but equally fascinating visual perspective to subject matter. In fact, according to the artist, though his work is abstract, the subject matters he deals with are all based on observations of actual people, places and environments. This may have been the case for one of his earliest paintings Nocturne (1962) which is an abstraction of “three women carrying containers of water on their heads as they are crossing a river at moonlight”.

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Tribute to Guy McIntosh

Barrington Watson - Portrait of Guy McIntosh (1977), Collection: The McIntosh Family

The National Gallery of Jamaica deeply regrets the passing of the art collector and dealer Guy McIntosh on Monday morning, August 8.

Guy McIntosh’s involvement in the Jamaican art world dated from the 1960s, when he started framing art for local collectors and when he also started collecting. He set up a framing workshop at the Contemporary Art Gallery, the gallery of the Contemporary Jamaican Artists Association, and in 1973 became the owner and operator of the Frame Centre Gallery on Tangerine Place, one of the leading art galleries and custom framing establishments in Jamaica. In the 1980s especially, the Frame Centre Gallery played an influential role in the development of Jamaican art and many of the leading artists of the day, such as Edna Manley, Kapo, Milton George, David Boxer and Norma Rodney Harrack all exhibited there. Continue reading

Dialogues in Space – NGJ Open Day on Saturday, June 25

The National Gallery of Jamaica is pleased to invite the public to Dialogues in Space, a series of performances as part of its open house to be held from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday June 25, 2011. Admission is free for the day and tours are complimentary (although donations are welcome!)

For this event the National Gallery of Jamaica has invited multi-disciplinary artists Safi Harriott, Zita Nyarady, Peter Chin and Jehan Jackson to present various performance pieces in dialogue with the artwork on display within our gallery spaces. There will also be free tours offered of our current exhibitions, The Guy McIntosh Collection and our children’s art exhibition Art’iT which is on display at the Information Centre of the Urban Development Corporation building adjacent to the National Gallery. Continue reading

Press Release – Guy McIntosh Donation

Milton George - Self Portrait (1990), oil pastel on paper

The National Gallery of Jamaica is pleased to announce the opening of the inaugural exhibition of the Guy McIntosh Donation, on Sunday, April 10, 2011 at 11 am. The exhibition will feature a group of more than 80 works of art by Jamaican and other artists recently donated to the National Gallery by the noted art dealer and collector, Guy McIntosh, who is the operator of the Frame Centre Gallery. The Guy McIntosh Donation exhibition will be declared open by Cultural Heritage Specialist and Editor of Arts Jamaica, Margaret Bernal. Continue reading