The National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ), which was established in 1974, is the oldest and largest public art gallery in the English Speaking Caribbean.
Its mandate is to collect, research, document and preserve Jamaican and other Caribbean art and related material which promotes our artistic heritage for the benefit of present and future generations.
“We inherited in 1974 a collection of Jamaican art from the institute of Jamaica but a very small collection at the time – about 220 works of art, paintings and sculptures. Our collection since then has grown to ah more than 1800 pieces,” Executive Director, NGJ, Veerle Poupeye, told JIS.
Starting out at Devon House, the National Gallery of Jamaica was moved to the Roy West Building on the Kingston Waterfront in 1983. What was meant to be a temporary relocation until a new gallery was built, has become the long-term, if not permanent home of the National Gallery of Jamaica.
“We have about 36,000 square feet, 30,000 of which are exhibition space,” Poupeye informed.
The Gallery houses a comprehensive collection of early, modern and contemporary art from Jamaica in addition to along with smaller Caribbean and international holdings. Most of the collection is always available for viewing, with many exhibitions being hosted throughout the year. The exhibition programme includes retrospectives of work by Jamaican artists, thematic exhibitions as well as touring exhibitions.
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Repeat visitors need not fear that they will see the same exhibits every time they go to the National Gallery of Jamaica. While the NGJ has predominantly permanent and semi-permanent exhibits, there are at least five temporary exhibits per year. These exhibits cover a variety of subjects, including national exhibits such as the National Visual Arts Competition, which is done in collaboration with the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission, and the Biennial Exhibition, solo exhibits or retrospectives on a particular artist, thematic exhibitions, as well as exhibits focused on a certain aspect of Jamaican Art.
The NGJ speaks to the history, the breadth and depth of Jamaica’s visual arts. It tracks the development of an indigenous visual art from pre-Columbian to contemporary times, giving visitors an idea of the different streams of art and artists: Jamaicans, persons in the Diaspora, and those artists operating out of Jamaica.
As a result, visitors have a wide array of artworks to choose from – paintings, drawings, sculptures, ceramics, photography, installations as well as video art.
The NGJ offers a range of educational services, including guided tours, lectures and panel discussions, and children’s art programmes and also operates a gift shop and coffee shop. The Gallery gets over 20 thousand visitors annually. Students and children make up the bulk of this figure, demonstrating the interest, appreciation and future of the Jamaican art scene.
“We have a small library and archive on Jamaican art ah so students come here to do research. And then we provide guided tours of the national gallery. We have a children’s art programmes on Saturday mornings. It’s a free programme. It’s funded by CHASE. we also organize lectures, panel discussions, film showings”.
The National Gallery of Jamaica is a division of the Institute of Jamaica, Ministry of Youth and Culture.
You may contact the National Gallery of Jamaica at 922-1561-3 and view the website at natgalja.org