The National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ) will today officially open the National Art Biennial — an exhibition of the best of Jamaican artists.
This exposé comes at a time when the NGJ is looking to open its doors to a wider cross-section of patrons.
Executive director, Dr Veerle Poupeye, hopes this will debunk the perception that the gallery is elitist, deals only in high art and is not accessible to the general public.
She is working to achieve this goal through the implementation of a number of programmes and projects targeting diverse groups.
"We want to capture the interest of young adults — half the population is under 30 and at the heart of the cultural movement; Increase the number of tourists — the National Gallery is one of the main tourist attractions in Kingston; reach out to the communities which surround the gallery and connect with the Diaspora who have a desire to engage with us culturally."
Poupeye adds that this is being executed through a stronger presence on social media — Facebook and Twitter — and via the gallery's website and blog.
"We had a breakthrough two years ago with the young artist exhibition. This was the first exhibition which tapped into contemporary Jamaican culture. Ebony Patterson's 'blinged' out car was promoted on social media and the National Gallery went viral. Our visitor count went through the roof," she explains.
She hopes the National Biennial will assist this drive. The 2012 edition consists of an invited section, to which artists with an established track record are invited by the NGJ to submit work. There is also a juried section, which is open to Jamaican artists and all artists living in Jamaica.
The works were reviewed and selected by a panel of judges, representative of major stakeholders in the local artistic community.
According to Poupeye: "This year, eight new artists were added to the invited list — Jasmine Thomas-Girvan, Marvin Bartley, Oneika Russell, Michael Elliott, Michael Thompson, Amy Laskin, Marlon James, Storm Saulter and we are very pleased to note that all new invitees are participating in the exhibition."
The exhibition features 126 works by 86 artists, of which 50 were invited while the other 36 entered through the jury system. To qualify for inclusion in the Biennial, works must have been created in the last two years.
"The strong representation of digital photography, illustration and video is noted and welcomed, as these new media are an increasingly important part of the cultural landscape; but it is heartening that there are also many works in more conventional media and genres," remarks Poupeye.
The 2012 National Biennial exhibition will be on view until March 9, 2013.