The National Biennial: A Catalyst in the Development of Jamaican Art

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On December 12, the National Gallery of Jamaica will open the 2010 National Biennial, the fifth edition since the biennial was established in 2002. The National Biennial is the successor of a long tradition of national exhibitions in Jamaica, which dates from 1938, when the first All Island Exhibition of Art and Craft was held at St George’s Hall in Kingston. This exhibition was a private initiative by members of the nationalist intelligentsia. The Institute of Jamaica took over the baton in 1940, when it began to stage its annual All-Island Exhibitions. In 1968 the Institute of Jamaica also established the annual Self-Taught Artists exhibition, which ran concurrent with the older exhibition for several years, but featured work by amateur and self-taught artists, while the All Island Exhibition became the domain of the professional artists. The two exhibitions were merged into a single exhibition, the Annual National Exhibition when the National Gallery, which started operations in 1974, took over responsibility for the major annual art exhibitions that had previously been staged by its parent organization, the Institute of Jamaica. The Annual National Exhibition was held annually from 1977 to 2001 and is thus the immediate precursor of the National Biennial.

The decision to move from annual to biennial in 2002 was motivated by a number of factors but two stand out: we wished to give participating artists more time in between these national exhibitions to produce significant work suitable for an exhibition of this caliber and we also needed to make space in our programmes for exhibitions that provide much-needed alternate perspectives on Jamaican art and a greater diversity of curatorial perspectives, such as the guest-curated Curator’s Eye series and the Young Talent series, which features the work of some of Jamaica’s most promising young artists. Continue reading

The NGJ Pays Tribute to Barry Chevannes

Professor Emeritus Barry Chevannes

The National Gallery of Jamaica wishes to pay tribute to Professor Emeritus Barry Chevannes, the Chair of our parent organization, the Institute of Jamaica, who passed away yesterday.

Barry Chevannes was a social anthropologist and was attached to the University of the West Indies since 1973, most recently as Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences. He was an authority on Rastafari and his publications on the subject include Rastafari: Roots and Ideology and the edited volume Rastafari and Other Caribbean Worldviews. Professor Chevannes’ academic interests translated into many areas public service and social activism, as the founder of Father’s Incorporated and Partners for Peace, and as the chair of National Commission on Ganja, among other contributions. He was appointed Chairman of the Institute of Jamaica Council in 1997.

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Jamaica’s Art Pioneers: Roy Reid (1937-2009)

Roy Reid - A Pig is a pig (1986), Collection: Herman van Asbroeck

Royland Reid was born in Portland, December 12, 1937, one of five children. His father was a cultivator and at the age of twelve, having dropped out of school, young Roy began his work in the field as well – a task that he said he didn’t enjoy much. Leaving school at such an early age was detrimental as he remained illiterate during his teens and well into adulthood. It can be assumed that Reid may have inherited his artistic and creative flair from his father, who he described as something of an artist himself; a musician who played the guitar, bass and other stringed instruments, as well as building the instruments himself. Roy Reid was also interested in music and much later on in life would experiment with building speakers, substituting the customary wooden box with an oil drum to “…give one a better sound”. He eventually left home in 1960 to settle in Spanish Town, making a living from doing odd jobs.

Reid described the sixties as his most important and exciting time as it was then that he started to seriously pursue artistic endeavours. “In this time, I taught myself to print using, initially, household enamel and brushes made from goat’s hair.” In 1968 he was employed to the Ministry of Works and Communication. In that same year, he decided to begin publicly promoting his artwork. First, he approached the Director of the Hills Galleries and later Miss M. McGowan of the Junior Centre at the Institute of Jamaica. In 1971, he made his first entry into a public exhibition at the Institute and became a regular entrant for the Institute’s Self-Taught and Annual National Exhibitions up until 1978. He was awarded for his 1972 entry, Happy Reunion Jason Whyte. During this time, he also conquered his illiteracy, teaching himself to read using the Bible. His work was promoted in the United States and he also exhibited in Cuba for the exhibition entitled Jamaican Primitives in 1976. His career as an exhibiting artist quickly and steadily developed and towards the eighties Reid began exhibiting in the UK. Reid was selected as a participating artist in the NGJ’s inaugural Intuitive Eye exhibition of 1979 as well as its two editions since then, Fifteen Intuitives in 1987 and Intuitives III in 2006. In 1987, he was awarded the Institute of Jamaica’s Bronze Musgrave Medal.  In 1999, Roy Reid was inducted into the Caribbean Hall of Fame in the category of the Visual Arts along with Collin Garland, Osmond Watson, Susan Alexander and Carl Abrahams. His work is represented in private collections and the NGJ Collection. Roy Reid, who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and diabetes for some time, succumbed to illness on the morning of January 10, 2009 at his home in the Olympic Gardens area. Continue reading

Jamaica’s Art Pioneers – David ‘Jack’ Pottinger (1911-2007)

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With this post, we launch a new series of features on the pioneers of modern Jamaican art. This article was written by O’Neil Lawrence who acts as Assistant Curator.

Born on September 13th 1911 in Kingston, Jamaica, David “Jack” Pottinger is considered by many to be one of Jamaica’s finest painters. He grew up on Prince Street in downtown Kingston, influenced by the rhythm of life vendors and many Pocomania meetings that took place there. He took a course in house painting, paid for by his mother so that he could do it professionally, and also embarked on the enterprise of sign painting at the encouragement of a Mr. Bailey: a butcher who believed there was something more to this young house painter. And there was; he was to become a central figure in the early defining years of the nationalist movement. Continue reading

Re-installed: Edna Manley – Negro Aroused (1935)

The redesigned entrance to the "Jamaican Art: The 20th Century" permanent exhibition

As part of the re-installation of our permanent exhibitions, which is currently in progress, we have recently re-conceptualized and re-installed the entrance alcove to the main permanent exhibition, now named Art in Jamaica: The 20th Century, which provides a comprehensive overview of modern Jamaican art. The entrance alcove has for many years housed Edna Manley’s famous Negro Aroused (1935), which we have retained but remounted on a display table by Jamaican Art Deco designer Burnett Webster, which was specifically commissioned and designed by the Institute of Jamaica to accommodate the sculpture.

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