Left: Jenny Gordon, “Male Target,” Mixed media collage on board, 2016
Right: Phillip Thomas, “High-Sis in the Garden of Heathen,” Mixed on fabric, Variable dimensions, 2017
KINGSTON, JAMAICA – Open to the public from Tuesday, February 28 to Sunday, May 28, 2017, the 2017 Jamaica Biennial is organized by the National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ), the largest and oldest public art museum in the Anglophone Caribbean. With a focus on Jamaica and Jamaica Diaspora artists with specially invited artists from other Caribbean nations, the Biennial will be housed in three locations including: the National Gallery andDevon House in Kingston and the National Gallery Westin Montego Bay. The Biennial is team-curated by the NGJ’s curatorial department under the direction of its Executive Director, Dr. Veerle Poupeye. A series of Biennial opening events will take place from Friday, February 24 to Sunday, February 26.
Initiated in 1977 as an exhibition for only Jamaican art, the Jamaica Biennial is repositioning itself as a platform for Caribbean art as the region’s significance in the global contemporary arts landscape pivots and as contemporary artists from various islands gain relevance internationally.
The 2017 Jamaica Biennial will include 35 invited Jamaican artists, 49 local, juried Jamaican artists with 7 special projects by Caribbean artists. In addition, the Biennale will have tributes to local artists Alexander Cooper and Peter Dean Rickards. The Aaron Matalon Award, named after a former chairman and major benefactor of the NGJ, will be presented to the artist with the best entry; and the Dawn Scott Memorial Award, art critic Edward Gomez’s private initiative, will be awarded to a young or emerging artist whose work echoes the innovative spirit and social engagement of the work of the late Dawn Scott, a pioneering contemporary Jamaican artist.
Dr. Veerle Poupeye, the lead on the curatorial team, is a Kingston, Jamaica-based art and historian and curator specialized in Caribbean art. “Part invitational and part juried, the Biennial is a very inclusive exhibition which brings into dialogue work in traditional and new media and established and emerging artists from Maria Magdelena Campos-Pons’ reflections to recent art school graduates such as Kelly-Ann Lindo,” says Poupeye. “There is no imposed theme but for each edition, certain shared themes come to the fore that reflect the concerns of the present moment, such as the politics of race, hair, migration, violence, human rights, and climate change.”
The other curatorial team members include O’Neil Lawrence, Senior Curator at the National Gallery of Jamaica andMonique Barnett Davidson, Assistant Curator in the Education Department of the National Gallery of Jamaica.
The judges for the Juried Section of the Biennial include Amanda Coulson, Director of the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, Christoper Cozier, an artist, writer and curator from Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Susanne Fredricks, Exhibitions Director at Gallery 128, Kingston, Jamaica and Omari Ra, Head of the Fine Arts Department at the School of Visual Arts at Edna Manley, College, Kingston, Jamaica.
Located in the business district on the Kingston Waterfront, the National Gallery of Jamaica’s 30,000 sq ft of exhibition space is spread over two floors. The largest part of the Biennial will be on view here with work in traditional and new media. Among the 117 artists who will be featured at the NGJ are: Raquel Paiewonsky, Nadia Huggins, Marcel Pinas, Prudence Lovell, Oneika Russell, David Boxer, Di-Andre Caprice Davis, Judy Ann MacMillan, Bryan McFarlane, Phillip Thomas, Simon Benjamin, Jacqueline Bishop, Olivia McGilchrist, Richard Nattoo, Samere Tansley, Shoshanna Weinberger, Cosmo Whyte and Laura Facey. The special tributes to Alexander Cooper and Peter Dean Rickards will also be shown here.
Devon House, a Victorian-era, plantation-style mansion, located just north of the New Kingston business district, was built in 1881 by George Stiebel, Jamaica’s first black millionaire. The work chosen for Devon House intervenes into the space and context of the house. Artists exhibiting at Devon House are Laura Facey, Andrea Chung, Deborah Anzinger, Leasho Johnson, Jasmine Thomas-Girvan and Sharon Norwood.
The National Gallery West, the National Gallery’s Montego Bay branch, housed in a restored Georgian courthouse on Sam Sharpe Square, will feature the David Gumbs’ installation Xing-Wang, an interactive, sound activated 5 channel video installation in the gallery space. The project’s outdoor component will be activated during Easter Weekend.