The National Visual Arts Competition and Exhibition 2011 opened last week at the National Gallery of Jamaica. It is a popular show that because of its diverse youth and adult entries in painting, drawing, photography, sculpture and video from across the country normally enjoys the support of a cross-section of Jamaicans. Originating from a national competition established after Jamaica's independence, the exhibition has had mixed fortunes over the years, often reflecting periods of buoyancy or malaise according to what is happening in the country. This year's event is underwhelming, with 354 entrants, one third of whom are new to the competition. It lacks the support of seasoned artists whose works normally serve to underpin the display. Yet, it does present an opportunity to see the work of independent artists not normally reflected in NGJ curated exhibitions such as Ann Ventura whose painting Firmly Rooted is shown here. Additionally, unlike the National Biennial that is the NGJ's own juried show, The National Visual Arts Competition and Exhibition is supported by artists who more readily consider themselves amateurs. Perhaps this too explains why the show, mounted in the temporary exhibition space on the ground floor, seems little enhanced by galleries that normally display work to advantage. Instead, entering the exhibition from the lobby, other works in the NGJ's permanent collection overshadow the competition's submissions. Of course this disparity begs a question about the relevance of the National Visual Arts Competition and Exhibition, but its historical popularity and political support will ensure that it survives, despite its current mediocrity.