Kingston Biennial Update

The inaugural Kingston Biennial has been postponed until December 2021.

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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.”

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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.

First Lady of Kenya Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta Visits the National Gallery of Jamaica

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On Tuesday August 6, 2019, the National Gallery of Jamaica welcomed the First Lady of Kenya Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta. Mrs Kenyatta was in Jamaica accompanying her husband His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta on his three day State Visit to Jamaica. She toured the Permanent Galleries as well as the recently opened National Gallery of Jamaica Summer Exhibition 2019. An avid supporter of the visual arts, Her Excellency also interacted with a number of the exhibiting artists who were present to discuss their work in the exhibition..

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With a background in construction and architecture, Mrs Kenyatta has taken on her role as the First Lady and wife of the 4th President of the Republic of Kenya with grace and poise and has been received by the Kenyan public with love and warmth. She espouses strong family values and hard work.

Margaret Kenyatta is perhaps best known for Beyond Zero — an initiative aimed at complementing the Government of Kenya’s effort to eliminate maternal and child mortality and HIV AIDs. In 2014, The First Lady was presented with the United Nations in Kenya Person of the Year award in recognition of her distinguished efforts in the Beyond Zero Initiative.

Margaret is passionately and actively involved in wildlife conservation. She is a Board Member of the Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI) Foundation, and Patron of the “Hands Off Our Elephants” campaign to eliminate illegal ivory trade that has lead to the slaughter of thousands of elephants in Africa. Committed to environmental conservation, Her Excellency started an initiative, known as the First Lady Tree Planting Awards Scheme, to recognize Kenyan schools that plant the highest number of trees in their institutions.

In March 2017 she was presented with the prestigious Fellow of Honoris Causa Award from the globally respected Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) in recognition of her tireless efforts towards the reduction of mother-to-child HIV transmission under the beyond Zero initiative.

Most recently, in May 2019, Her Excellency was awarded the “Health Leaders 2019 Award” by the World Health Organisation in Geneva, Switzerland in recognition for her outstanding advocacy work on global health matters.

Her Excellency is an acclaimed children’s ambassador and has visited many homes and institutions caring for children with special needs. Margaret Kenyatta’s care for people, is closely followed by her lover for the world in which they live; her desire is to leave this world a better place.

 

Announcement: NGJ Summer Exhibition 2019 Recipients of the Dawn Scott Memorial Award

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Edward M. Gomez announcing the Dawn Scott Memorial Award Winners

The National Gallery of Jamaica is delighted to announce the winners of the 3rd edition of the Dawn Scott Memorial Award, selected by Edward M. Gómez. This year two artists were selected for the award Judith Salmon and Shoshanna Weinberger. 

Official Citation:

Presented in honour and in memory of the Jamaican artist Alison Dawn Scott (1951-2010), whose multifaceted body of work encompassed drawing, painting, sculpture, architectural design, and sophisticated batik fabric-dyeing techniques. Scott’s art often evoked timely social-cultural and political themes.

The Dawn Scott Memorial Award recognises the creativity and originality of the artworks you exhibited in the 2019 Summer Exhibition, as well as aspects of your work that evoke the artistic and philosophical principles that distinguished Dawn Scott’s thinking, teaching, art-making and activism.

Those principles and values include proficiency and innovation in your handling of your materials, fresh ideas about the expressive power of art, and a sense of courage in the way you address your chosen subject matter.

Presented by the art critic and art historian Edward M. Gómez on July 28, 2019, in Kingston, Jamaica.

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Judith Salmon – Mother, Mother, Mother I, II, III (2019). Photo Credit: Franz Marzouca

2019 Dawn Scott Memorial Award presented to JUDITH SALMON, on the occasion of the showing of Mother, Mother, Mother I, II, III in the 2019 Summer Exhibition at the National Gallery of Jamaica, Kingston, Jamaica.

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Shoshanna Weinberger – Midnight Selfies with One Sunset (left) and Tropical Tan (right) (2019). Photo Credit: Artist

2019 Dawn Scott Memorial Award presented to SHOSHANNA WEINBERGER, on the occasion of the showing of Midnight Selfies with one Sunset and Tropical Tan in the 2019 Summer Exhibition at the National Gallery of Jamaica, Kingston, Jamaica.

NGJ Summer Exhibition 2019: Dawn Scott Award

The National Gallery of Jamaica is pleased to announce the third edition of the Dawn Scott Memorial Award, which will be presented to an artist participating in its National Gallery of Jamaica Summer Exhibition 2019 (the award was formerly part of the Jamaica Biennial). The show will open on Sunday, July 28, and remain on view through October 27, 2019.

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The Jamaican artist Alison Dawn Scott (1951-2010) and the art critic Edward M. Gómez in Kingston, in 2003Photo credit: ©2019 Ballena Studio, Inc.

The Dawn Scott Memorial Award, which comes with a monetary prize, is a private initiative sponsored by the New York-based, internationally known art critic, art historian, and curator Edward M. Gómez to honour the memory and legacy of his close friend and colleague, the late Jamaican artist Alison Dawn Scott (1951-2010). Gómez himself will examine the artworks on view in the 2019 Summer Exhibition and from them choose a work of art and its creator to honour with the award. The prize will be announced during the exhibition’s opening ceremony at the National Gallery of Jamaica on Sunday, July 28.

The award is funded by Gómez and Dawn Scott’s daughter, Tsehai “Spoogie” Scott, a Kingston-based businesswoman and film-production specialist.

In 2014, the artists Camille Chedda and Kimani Beckford were named the recipients of the inaugural Dawn Scott Memorial Award. In 2017, the honour was shared by the Jamaican painters Greg Bailey and Alicia Brown, and by the mixed-media artist Andrea Chung, who is of Jamaican and Trinidadian ancestry and is based California, U.S.A.

Gómez, who worked in the cultural service of the Embassy of the United States in Kingston in the 1980s, has close personal and professional ties to Jamaica and its vibrant arts community. He has written and published numerous articles and essays about Jamaican artists, including the legendary Jamaican Intuitives, which helped introduce their achievements to broad, international audiences. In 2006, he delivered opening remarks at the National Gallery of Jamaica’s Intuitives III exhibition and wrote an essay for its accompanying catalogue.

Gómez says, “The Dawn Scott Memorial Award recognizes the creativity and originality of the work of an artist taking part in the NGJ Summer Exhibition 2019. In keeping with the artistic and philosophical principles that distinguished Dawn Scott’s thinking, teaching, art-making and activism, in selecting a winner of the award, I will look for proficiency and innovation in the artist’s handling of his or her materials, fresh ideas about the expressive power of art, and a sense of courage in the way the artist addresses his or her subject matter.”

Currently the senior editor of Raw Vision, the London-based, international magazine about outsider art and the work of self-taught artists, and a senior critic for the culture magazine Hyperallergic, Gómez has written for the New York Times, the Japan Times (Japan), Reforma (Mexico), and many other publications, including Art & Antiques, Art in America, ARTnews, Art + Auction, Metropolis, and Folk Art. He is the author or co-author of numerous books and exhibition catalogues.

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Dawn Scott, A Cultural Object (1985); detail of a mixed-media work in the collection of the National Gallery of Jamaica Photo credit: National Gallery of Jamaica

In her own work, Scott was known for her fine craftsmanship and draughtsmanship. Using the wax-resist batik process on fabric, she produced emblematic portraits and scenes of Jamaican rural and urban life. In 1985, Scott created one of Jamaican contemporary art’s most influential mixed-media installation works, A Cultural Object, which the National Gallery of Jamaica later acquired. An artistic response to some of the same themes that had been percolating in Jamaican popular music and poetry, this bold work, which has had a strong impact on later generations of local artists, recreates a section of an inner-city neighbourhood. It addresses some of Jamaican and Caribbean society’s most enduring social and economic challenges.

During the last phase of her multifaceted career, Dawn Scott worked with the Kingston-based firm Kingston 10 Architects Ltd on commercial and residential buildings for which she provided original design details. Among them: decorative fretwork based on traditional Caribbean motifs, wall-painting and flooring schemes, and landscaping. Scott, who also worked as an educator, was an active participant in National Gallery of Jamaica exhibitions and regarded the museum as one of the country’s most important cultural institutions.

Gómez says, “With the Dawn Scott Memorial Award, I wish to honour the memory of a very talented Jamaican artist and friend who contributed substantively to the cultural life of her country. At the same time, by means of this award, I would like Jamaican artists to know that their work and that of the National Gallery of Jamaica are worthy of serious, international critical attention. This award helps to convey that kind of recognition, which is most deserved.”

The Dawn Scott Memorial Award is one of two awards attached to the 2019 Summer Exhibition, along with the Aaron Matalon Award, which is awarded to an artist who, in the view of the National Gallery’s Exhibitions and Acquisitions Committees, has contributed the strongest entry to the exhibition. This award will also be announced at the exhibition’s opening ceremony on Sunday, July 28.

National Gallery of Jamaica appoints O’Neil Lawrence as Chief Curator

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Credit: Paulo Freitas / Glamurama

The National Gallery of Jamaica is pleased to announce the appointment of O’Neil Lawrence as the institution’s new Chief Curator.

As a member of the senior management team Lawrence will oversee the active exhibition programme at the National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ, Kingston) and National Gallery West (NGW, Montego Bay), as well as the stewardship and development of Jamaica’s national art collection.

Chairman of the board, Senator Tom Tavares-Finson says: “In the over 10 years that our new Chief Curator O’Neil Lawrence has served the iconic National Gallery of Jamaica, he has grown into the perfect candidate for this challenge. His wide depth of knowledge of Jamaican and Caribbean art will serve him well as he begins this stage of his career.  His curatorial skills have been honed under many Jamaican and international curators including the late Chief Curator, the Hon. Dr. David Boxer O.J. The Board of the NGJ joins me in welcoming our new Chief Curator and we look forward to great new developments at the NGJ.”

Lawrence’s expertise is home-grown. He began working at the NGJ in 2008 as an Outreach Officer before joining the staff full-time in 2009 and serving as a Curatorial Assistant, Assistant Curator, and Senior Curator (a position he held since 2013). 

As Senior Curator, his over thirty-five exhibitions included the critically acclaimed Seven Women Artists (2015) and Masculinities (2015-2016). He was the co-curator of the NGJ’s largest multi-site exhibition Jamaica Biennial 2017 and led the curatorial team for Beyond Fashion at the NGJ and I Shall Return Again at NGW. Both exhibition openings broke NGJ and NGW records for attendance and have been hailed as the Gallery’s most successful exhibitions to date at their respective locations.  

 “I have been surrounded by art my entire life,” Lawrence says. “My father was an artist. My friends are artists. And I am an artist. I have worked alongside a team that has developed an exhibition and events programme at the Gallery which engages an increasingly wide audience and with the support of the Board and all stakeholders, I look forward to leading them in even more ambitious creative collaborations.” 

Lawrence’s new role as Chief Curator is pivotal to the continued development of the NGJ’s programming and scholarship to its historical standard. Says Dr Jonathan Greenland, Senior Director of the National Gallery: “I have watched O’Neil’s careful and systematic development of his skills as a gallery professional for years and I know that with his leadership and strong curatorial abilities, he will continue the momentum at the National Gallery and help us to reach new heights.”

Lawrence acknowledges the persistent myth that a space like the gallery is only for the wealthy and that the work is too abstract for people to find relatable but, he says, “There is something for everyone at the National Gallery no matter who you are and we want you to come and discover it. Our art matters because our stories matter – the National Collection illustrates our experiences as a culture and I will continue to pursue mutually beneficial partnerships in and outside of our borders—particularly in the Global South— in keeping with our stated mission “to promote our artistic heritage for the benefit of present and future.”

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Credit: Shawna-Lee Tai

About O’Neil Lawrence

O’Neil Lawrence holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Sociology and Master of Philosophy in Cultural Studies from the University of the West Indies. He is trained in visual communication (Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts) and cultural heritage preservation as part of the US State Department’s IVLP programme and he was the 2014 recipient of the prestigious Bridget Jones Award of the Society of Caribbean Studies.

Lawrence’s publications include essays for the 2012 Pictures from Paradise: A Survey of Contemporary Caribbean Photography and Histórias Afro-Atlânticas Vol 2 Antologia (MASP 2018).  In 2009 he chaired the Education and Outreach Committee of the Institute of Jamaica and in 2016 he was Chair of that institution’s Researchers and Curators Committee. In 2018 he served on the Board of the Davidoff Art Initiative and he is currently on the Advisory Council of the Caribbean Art Initiative

Lawrence’s research interests include race, gender and sexuality in Caribbean and African diasporal art and visual culture; memory, identity and hidden archives; photography as a medium and a social vehicle; Caribbean and general art history and museums and other public cultural institutions. 

As an artist, his photography and video work has been included in several local and international exhibitions including Rockstone and Bootheel at Connecticut’s Real Art Ways in 2009, his 2012 solo exhibition Son of a Champion at the Mutual Gallery, the Jamaica Biennial in 2014, Visions Achipéliques at Martinique’s Fondation Clemént in 2016 and The Expanded Caribbean: Contemporary Photography at the Crossroads at the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery Philadelphia in 2017.

Her Excellency Epsy Campbell Barr, First Vice President of Costa Rica, visits the National Gallery of Jamaica

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Her Excellency Epsy Campbell Barr (First Vice President of Costa Rica) and Senator Tom Tavares-Finson (Chairman, NGJ)

Her Excellency Epsy Campbell Barr, First Vice President of Costa Rica, paid her first visit to the National Gallery of Jamaica on June 17, 2019. She has been attending the Jamaica Diaspora Conference 2019 which is being held at the Jamaica Conference Centre. She was welcomed by Chairman of the National Gallery, Senator Tom Tavares-Finson, Deputy Chair Ms Marigold Harding, the Executive Director of the Institute of Jamaica Mr. Vivian Crawford, as well as Senior Director Dr. Jonathan Greenland and Chief Curator Mr. O’Neil Lawrence.

Visiting the Gallery was an important part of Ms. Campbell Barr’s journey in reconnecting with her Jamaican roots; her grandmother was a Kingstonian who moved to Costa Rica. Ms. Campbell Barr was interested in the works depicting Jamaica’s socio-political history, as well as the Jamaican traditions that she was familiar with: Jonkunnu and the Nine Night. She was also particularly interested in works featuring National Hero Marcus Garvey. Garvey is also a national hero in Costa Rica due to his work there in Black social upliftment and is also a particular hero of Ms. Campbell Barr.

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O’Neil Lawrence (Chief Curator) and Her Excellency Epsy Campbell Barr (First Vice President of Costa Rica) discussing Colin Garland

Ms. Campbell Barr is Costa Rica’s first woman of African descent to be Vice President and she is a leading economist. She has been the head of the Center for Women of African Descent, the Alliance of Leaders of African Descent in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Black Parliament of the Americas. She has participated in several conferences and meetings around the world, as the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.

 

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Senator Tom Tavares-Finson (Chairman), Her Excellency Epsy Campbell Barr (First Vice President of Costa Rica), Dr. Jonathan Greenland (Senior Director), O’Neil Lawrence (Chief Curator) in front of Colin Garland’s In the Beautiful Caribbean

In addition to her other achievements Campbell Barr has written books and articles on topics such as democracy, inclusion, political and economic participation of women, people of African descent, sexism and racism, among others. She is an expert on issues of social development, equity, political participation of women and African descent.