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The National Gallery of Jamaica

by Sheree-Anita Shearer | Associate Writer

Museums are a very vital part of learning the history of a people. All over the world, museums are visited by hundreds of people who would like to learn more about a particular place through visual art, education, and culture. Jamaica is no different. There are over 20 registered museums on the island and many small unregistered ones as well. The premier place to see Jamaica’s art on display is the National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ) which is a division of the Institute of Jamaica, Ministry of Youth and Culture.

When Was the National Gallery of Jamaica Established?

In 1972, an advisory committee was created, comprising of Sam Hart, Ralph Thompson, Vayden McMorris, Edna Manley, Ralph Thompson, Bernard Lewis, Osmond Watson and Karl ‘Jerry’ Graig. Two years later, on November 22, 1974, the National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ) was established. Opening at Devon House with Liz Milner supervising the operations and Maurice Facey as the Chairman of the Board. On opening day there were a mere 237 paintings and drawings and 25 sculptures transferred from the Institute of Jamaica. As the largest, oldest and most extensive museum in Jamaica and the Anglophone Caribbean, there are now over 1800 pieces currently housed at the museum. This, you will agree, is a far cry from the amount it started with.

Can you believe that on a small island such as this, we have managed to preserve artifacts dating back thousands of years? Yes! You will find among the exhibits, pieces created by the first inhabitants of Jamaica, along with some of the island’s most celebrated contemporary work. In 1983, the Gallery was moved from its home at Devon House to the Roy West Building on the Waterfront in downtown Kingston. Although it was initially a temporary set-up, the gallery is still standing here today.

What Is The Main Function of The Museum?

The main goal of the NGJ is to preserve the art and other related material from Jamaica and the Caribbean and promote the artistic capabilities of the region for the benefit of future generations.

What Will You See At The National Gallery of Jamaica?

The gallery offers quite a comprehensive collection of early, modern and contemporary Jamaican and Caribbean art with a few International pieces. small extent. There are significant pieces from the Tainos to now that are always on display. Although a majority of the exhibitions are permanently on display, you needn’t worry about seeing the same thing if you visit often. The NGJ has up to 5 different temporary exhibits over a year. Visitors can see a wide variety of artworks including sculptures, paintings, drawings, ceramics and photography.

Guided tours are offered along with lectures and panel discussions. There is also a children’s art programme which is great for the majority of its visitors which are usually students on school trips. There is also a library and archives of Jamaican art available for research purposes. The children’s art programme is done on a Saturday morning, free of charge. Their Last Sunday programme is done every month with a host of children’s activities, programmes and tours.

They are very active on social media, through Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. This has been very instrumental during the pandemic as most of their programmes had to be held virtually.

Who Are The Feautured Artists?

The works of many local artists (and a few international ones) are exhibited at the NGJ. Some of the most popular are John Dunkley, Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds, Barrington Watson, Cecil Baugh, Albert Huie and Osmond Watson. Edna Manley’s body of work including her sculptures drawings and paintings can be seen when you visit her gallery which encapsulates the work of the “mother of Jamaican art”.

How Do I Contact The National Gallery of Jamaica?

The National Gallery of Jamaica can be contacted by:

Telephone: 1876 922-1561/3 (Flow) 1876 618-0654/5 (Digicel)

I also recommend you read, Art in Jamaica &The Influence Of Edna Manley.


  • National Gallery of Jamaica, Visit Jamaica,
  • Museums in Jamaica - The Top Jamaican Art Galleries To Visit, My-Island-Jamaica,
  • Jamaica Jamaica,,
  • The National Gallery of Jamaica – Celebrating Jamaica 55,

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