Tue | Dec 6, 2016

National Gallery plans for 40

Published:Saturday | August 16, 2014 | 12:00 AM
John Dunkley - Banana Plantation, 1945 - Contributed
Barrington Watson - Mother and Child, 1958 - Contributed
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Shereita Grizzle, Gleaner Writer

Plans are being put in place as the 40th anniversary of the National Gallery of Jamaica draws closer. With just over two months to go before the official celebratory date, organisers are keen to remind Jamaica of the four-decade journey of the oldest and largest public art museum in the English-speaking Caribbean.

The gallery originally opened its doors on November 14, 1974, at Devon House. However, due to expansions and an ever-growing catalogue, that venue quickly became too small for the gallery to continue operations there. In 1982, it found a new home at the waterfront, downtown Kingston, where it remains to date.

In commemoration of the 40th-year milestone, there are plans for upgrades and developments. Executive director of the National Gallery, Dr Veerle Poupeye, said, "We are about to start a programme to develop our present building to current museum standards and recently we added an extension in Montego Bay - National Gallery West."

The western facility became operational on July 11 at the Montego Bay Cultural Centre, Sam Sharpe Square.

Poupeye noted that the anniversary not only provides an opportunity to reflect on what the gallery has achieved over the 40-year period, but also opens the door for assessment on what needs to be done in the future.

When the National Gallery first opened, the earlier exhibitions focused on developing the story of Jamaican art and that has remained one of the museum's main purposes throughout the years. In recent times, the facility has facilitated the exposure of emerging artists. In 2010 the Young Talent exhibition series was staged and last year there was the New Roots exhibition.

The gallery has also broadened its scope to include new forms of art, such as installation art, video performance, graphic design and, most recently, street art. With the recent inclusions, the National Gallery's collections have widened substantially and now boast over 2,000 works of art - way more than the 200 paintings and 30 sculptures it started out with.

Keen on attracting everyday Jamaicans the National Gallery has commenced its Last Sundays programme, where on the every last Sunday of the month free admission, free tours and children's activities, as well as special events, such as concerts or dance and drama performances, are offered. The gallery has also been using social media as a means of connecting with citizens, and it is intended that the National Gallery will have a more visible presence in the Caribbean region.

The National Gallery of Jamaica is a division of the Institute of Jamaica and falls under the Ministry of Youth and Culture.

shereita.grizzle@gleanerjm.com