There is an active art scene in Jamaica, but you have to look for it. It isn’t underground, it just isn’t well publicised. There are regular public auctions at which it is possible to buy original works by the nation’s greatest artists – not something that’s possible in many countries. Jamaica often seems like a village where everyone knows everyone else, the arts scene is no exception. Small local galleries will often know of individual works by national Masters that are up for sale anywhere on the island. So, if you want to learn more about Jamaican art, or even invest in a piece yourself, then with a little effort goes a long way.
Know What You Want
It sounds obvious, but the first step to understanding how to buy Jamaican art is to cultivate at least a basic understanding of the artists and their work. But really, so much pseudo-nonsense is talked about art, the main consideration should be your enjoyment.
If you want to know more about the fathers of modern Jamaican art, then start at the National Gallery in Downtown Kingston. There are superb works by Barrington Watson, Cecil Cooper, Karl Parboosingh, Albert Huie, Edna Manley and Malica ‘Kapo’ Reynolds, Milton Harley and many others. The gift shop also sells some excellent books that will further your knowledge.
National Gallery of Jamaica, 12 Ocean Boulevard, Kingston.
Phone: 1.876.922-1561/3 or 1.876.618-0654/5
Jamaican Art Auctions
There are periodic auctions of Jamaican Art, usually in either Kingston or Montego Bay. Local and international collectors will often offer pieces for sale through local galleries first, that then may find themselves at auction. The auctions usually have quite a wide range of offerings, many affordable pieces alongside the masters. Other than the National Gallery, an auction is the best way to see a broad collection in one place. The pre-auction mingle is usually an excellent opportunity to meet collectors and dealers who will be delighted to talk about what’s on offer.
For instance, the recent art auction by the Rotary club in Kingston included pieces by the father of Jamaican art, Albert Huie and another by the father of Jamaican abstract art Milton Harley. There were also some excellent sculptures and a superb cedar wood carving. There were also many popular works by well-known artists such as Alexander Cooper.
The Auction of Jamaican and Caribbean Art at Montego bay on 13 November had a number of Huie’s, a Barrington Watson and even a sculpture by Malica ‘Kapo’ Reynolds amongst its excellent catalogue. There is also a work by Laura Facey, the artist responsible for the Redemption Song monument at the entrance to Emancipation Park in Kingston.
Auctions aren’t always convenient, depending on when and where they’re held. Fortunately there are a number of excellent galleries in Jamaica where it is possible to learn more about Jamaica artists and pick up a piece of Caribbean or Jamaican art. Gallery owners will often be happy to connect buyers with sellers looking for works by specific artists. A complete list of Galleries can be found at the Art Events site, here are a few recommendations from Caribbean Cables:
- The Olympia Art Gallery in Kingston is housed in a distinctive 1970s residential block. Starting out as an arts centre, it rapidly evolved to become one of Jamaica’s leading art galleries. They host regular events and sales, and maintain a fresh inventory with new works coming in all the time.
Olympia Art Gallery: 202 Old Hope Road, Kingston 6. Phone: 876-927-1608.
- The Kingston Frame Centre Gallery has also been in operation since the 1970s and is the best place to take your newly purchased master for framing. They have a delightful gallery with some interesting pieces. Established by Guy McIntosh, a leading collector of Jamaican art and major benefactor to the National Gallery of Jamaica and now operated by his wonderful wife, if there’s something you want to know about Jamaican art, this is the place to go.
Frame Centre Gallery: 5 Ardenne Road | Kingston 10. Phone: 876.978.3980 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Bolivar Art Gallery in Kingston was established in the 1960’s by englishman Hugh Dunphy to great local enthusiasm. Despite the small size, the gallery has an excellent collection and is a stalwart of the Jamaican arts scene.
Bolivar Gallery 1D Grove Rd. Kingston 10 Jamaica. Tel:1-876-926-8799
However you choose to buy Jamaican art, you will find the local art scene to be friendly and accessible.