As the Minister responsible for Culture, it is my mission to showcase the finest examples of Jamaican culture, in all the arts: to encourage, promote and facilitate the work of our artists who often take us to the World, as we see with John Dunkley.
As Minister I must also support the cultural agencies that bring the artists and the audiences together. Our Jamaican audiences are very important to me. Art is not just a luxury for society, to be enjoyed by the privileged. It is important for everyone. It is vital for learning critical thinking skills, enhancing personal development, heightening self-awareness, raising discussions, increasing civic pride and national self-respect. We must encourage and empower everyone to talk about art — not just experts. Art is for all. Design is at the heart of everything these days and you can only design if you can really see.
The National Gallery of Jamaica is the vanguard of the Ministry in this regard: championing the artists and the audiences the Gallery serves. And I must compliment the Chairman, Senator Tavares Finson, and the Board for all the exciting new developments I see coming up in the next couple of years.
It is often forgotten that the National Gallery is a part of the Institute of Jamaica, our senior Cultural agency, which is 139 years young this year. And, interestingly, an important part of the Dunkley story is the role of the Institute of Jamaica. The Secretary of the IOJ in those days, Mr Delves Molesworth, would see Dunkley's works as he passed his shop and he encouraged him to paint and make sculptures, even while he worked as a barber. Dunkley was an ordinary working man, and this encouragement helped him become the artist that we can see now. He may not have been a trained artist but he had art within him, as do many who never get the encouragement they need or deserve.
The 'Intuitives', as we call them, are a deeply loved part of the Jamaican art world: self-taught, often religiously-inspired creative spirits who speak their very own often beautiful language. Their work has long been coveted by collectors, here and abroad, but more importantly they create very accessible works of art that speak to the soul of the nation: colourful, vibrant, sometimes spiritual, usually highly original. They are loved by all echelons of society, uptown and downtown, for good reason. Their work often blurs the line between fine art and what some would call folk art. In some countries they call them 'Outsider' artists but ours are very much inside.
As well as being considered an Intuitive artist, John Dunkley is one of our master Jamaican artists. He is also one of the cherished few that stand at the very beginnings of our development as a nation. He was living and working in the 30's and 40's when many of the most important national narratives arose. His images of Roosevelt and Busta speak to our shared national and international history.
We are also delighted to see that Dunkley is getting international recognition and his work is helping to promote Jamaican art abroad. The exhibition was conceptualised by the Perez Museum in Miami, and curated by former Associate Curator Diana Nawi, who recognised Dunkley's brilliance and importance when she visited Jamaica as an invited juror for our 2014 Jamaican Biennale. Our very own Dr David Boxer served as Curatorial Consultant, and independent Jamaican curator Nicole Smythe Johnson was Assistant Curator.
We would like to thank Perez Museum for their innovation, and for their partnership and generosity. After its time here, the Retrospective will be travelling to New York, to the American Folk Art Museum.
I know the Gallery has an exciting public programme around this event so there is a plenty of time to bring others to see it. Please join us in promoting this exhibition to friends and family and making this a truly National Gallery.