Exhibition Opening: National Gallery of Jamaica Summer Exhibition 2019

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The National Gallery of Jamaica’s Last Sundays programming for July 28, 2019 will feature the opening of the inaugural National Gallery of Jamaica Summer Exhibition 2019 and features a musical performance by Jaz Elise. The keynote speaker will be The Honourable Olivia Grange MP, CD, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport. 

This exhibition was developed in the tradition of previous open-submission art exhibitions staged by the National Gallery since 1974. Notable predecessors include the Annual National, the National Biennial and the Jamaica Biennial exhibitions. Similar to those exhibitions, the NGJ Summer Show is comprised of an invited and a juried section and the summer show seeks to unearth new artistic talent, as well as provide an enriching perspective on the already diverse and exciting cohort of Jamaican visual artists, both locally and abroad. A total of one hundred and ninety-two (192) artworks, produced by one hundred and fifteen (115) artists were reviewed by three judges: art historians Petrina Dacres and Erica Moiah James, as well as exhibition designer Sara Shabaka.  The resulting exhibition show will feature ninety-nine (97) artworks, by sixty-eight (68) Jamaican artists, based locally and overseas.

Artworks in the exhibition take on many forms: sculpture, fibre and textile arts, painting, photography, mixed media works, as well as large-scale installations. As is expected with any open submission-based art show, the themes explored by our artists are diverse. Some of the more timeless ones include issues surrounding gender, ancestry, the environment, personas and personalities.

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Raised and molded in the strongly cultured City of Kingston Jamaica, Jaz Elise is an artiste who is on a mission to make great songs and uplift and spread positivity. Born Jasmine Taylor, she began singing in the children’s choir at age 5 and continued to pursue it throughout her life. Jaz Elise also has extensive experience in dancing and acting, performing in the Quilt Performing Arts Company and co-starring in films such as Capture Land (Directed by Nabil Elderkin) and Proscenium. Her style is a mixture of soulful melodies and DJ style and her aim is to tell real stories, give real perspectives and to entertain through her music.

The National Gallery of Jamaica will be open from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. The formalities will begin at 1:30 pm and the performance will follow afterwards. As per usual on Last Sundays, admission is free, but contributions to our Donations Box, located in the lobby, are appreciated. These donations help to fund our in house exhibitions and our Last Sundays programming. The National Gallery’s Gift Shop and Coffee Shop will be open for business.

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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.”

10 Questions for O’Neil Lawrence, Chief Curator

O'Neil Lawrence Head shot 2018 (1)

Photo Credit: Artur Curval

  1. Why is the National Gallery of Jamaica important? Most people are aware of our rich musical heritage but our visual arts are just as rich and varied. The National Gallery of Jamaica preserves that aspect of our culture and shares it through our exhibitions and programming.
  2. You travelled personally and professionally to visit other national galleries, what makes you especially proud of ours? I’m particularly proud of the fact that over the years we’ve been able to achieve an international standard with our exhibitions despite having far more limited resources.
  3. So what’s coming up at NGJ in the near future? Our Summer Exhibition opens on July 30 and will feature exciting work by a combination of our established and emerging artists. In November, the Jamaica Jamaica! exhibition, a joint project between the NGJ and the Jamaica Music Museum which has been shown in Paris and Sao Paulo, will also open. It will showcase developments in Jamaican music through art, artifacts and sound.

    Jamaica Jamaica! exhibition flyer

    Jamaica Jamaica! Promotional Flyer

  4. Give us one trick that we can use to really understand an exhibition. I don’t necessarily believe in tricks. I think that viewers should have more faith in the intrinsic feelings and emotions they experience looking at artwork. Sometimes the knowledge and experiences we bring to a space is the best guide.
  5. Which exhibition really moved you and why? The Afro-Atlantic Histories exhibition staged at the Sao Paulo Museum of Art in 2018. It not only featured many Jamaican masterpieces, but it brought together the shared and sometimes hidden histories of black people in this hemisphere.

    Cover of Afro-Atlantic Histories Catalogue featuring Conversation by Barrington Watson

    Afro-Atlantic Histories Catalogue Cover (featuring Barrington Watson’s – Conversation, 1981)

  6. If a visitor only had limited time to spend at the Gallery, what are the must-sees? That’s such a difficult question. I would recommend the Belisario prints in our historical galleries as a visual representation of our history of resistance through performance. But then the Edna Manley and Kapo galleries are also must-sees.
  7. How have your experiences as a curator informed your life? I think I found my calling. My experiences at the NGJ have shown me that this is definitely what I was meant to do.
  8. What’s your first priority as Chief Curator? I am organizing a staff retreat. The staff of the gallery has done some amazing work in the time I have been here. We have been through a lot of changes in the last few years and I think we need to recalibrate so that we can move forward as creatively and productively as possible.
  9. What’s your greatest wish for the National Gallery? We have achieved a lot in recent years with regards to public engagement. I would like us to get to a stage when the majority of Jamaicans can say that they have visited at least one of our branches and had a memorable experience.
  10. How can the people of Jamaica support the gallery? Come and enjoy some entertainment at our free Last Sundays openings. Follow us on social media, come and experience our exhibitions. Our visitors are the lifeblood of our organization and we need them to thrive.  

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

O'Neil Lawrence at Afro Atlantic Histories exhibition courtesy of Paulo Freitas_Glamurama.jpg

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.

International Reggae Poster Contest Poster Auction Catalogue

This Sunday June 30, 2019 is the International Reggae Poster Contest (IRPC) Poster Auction of selected international entries from the 2018 competition and special contributions, including a limited edition serigraph from IRPC co-founder, the late Michael ‘Freestylee’ Thompson. The proceeds from the auction will go to the Alpha Institute School of Music on 26 South Camp Road.

Below is a link to the catalogue of posters up for bidding.

The auction begins promptly at 2:30pm, following a live music performance by Sparrow Martin and The Skasonics at 1:30pm, all of whom are alumni of the vocational institution.

On Saturday June 29, 2019 there will be a related event, Downtown Top Rankin’ at F&B Downtown. There will be a viewing of the limited edition serigraph by IRPC founder Michael Thompson from 8pm – 10pm, as well live painting of the work by 3 artists. These will also be available for purchase during the auction this Last Sundays.

The National Gallery of Jamaica will be open from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. As per usual on Last Sundays, admission is free, but contributions to our Donations Box, located in the lobby, are appreciated. These donations help to fund our in house exhibitions and our Last Sundays programming. The National Gallery’s Gift Shop and Coffee Shop will be open for business.

This exhibition has been sponsored by: MBJ Airports Ltd. and Paperboy JA, the exhibition’s printing partner, with support from: Freestyle, It’s Just Me, Graphic Art News and Alpha Institute.

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.