Cana­dian and indige­nous galleries

Where Ottawa - - HERE & NOW SPOTLIGHT -

The Na­tional Gallery of Canada is in­ter­twin­ing Indige­nous and Euro­pean art his­tory to paint a more com­plete pic­ture of Cana­dian iden­tity. The Cana­dian and Indige­nous Galleries: From Time Im­memo­rial to 1967 will open on June 15, re­plac­ing the former Cana­dian Galleries. Gallery di­rec­tor Marc Mayer spoke about what vis­i­tors can ex­pect from the new galleries—and what they never would have ex­pected.

Q: What can Cana­di­ans learn from this com­bi­na­tion of the Cana­dian gallery and the Indige­nous gallery?

a: They in­flu­enced each other over the last 400 years, so that is a very ba­sic and ex­traor­di­nar­ily im­por­tant story about canada. it’s go­ing to be ex­tremely help­ful for cana­di­ans to get a glimpse of their iden­tity—some­thing that’s very, very fleet­ing and that no one can re­ally put their fin­ger on.

Q: And how many new ar­ti­facts are you bring­ing in?

a: we had around 400 things be­fore, now we have over 600. any­thing from bead­work to tiny amulets, to paint­ings, sculp­ture, and pho­to­graphs. [There’s] an em­broi­dery by a woman named marie la mère de songe, who was an ur­su­line nun and also a brilliant em­broi­derer. she was by far the most gifted euro­pean artist prac­tic­ing in canada, and that’s new. nor­mally at the na­tional Gallery we start with the pain­ters and the sculp­tors, who were gen­er­ally priests, be­cause that’s what you see in an art mu­seum— but it’s just un­fair. her imag­i­na­tion and her skill is so su­pe­rior to the men who were work­ing at that time, that it’s just un­fair to not iden­tify her as the first true­blue euro­pean artist to prac­tice in canada. Plus, she lived here for 50 years! once she came here, she never went back.

Q: And how does this com­bi­na­tion of galleries de­fine the ap­proach that the Na­tional Gallery is now tak­ing to­wards Cana­dian art in gen­eral?

a: it’s a broader ap­proach, a more in­clu­sive ap­proach be­cause the story of art-making in canada goes back thou­sands of years, not just hundreds… [his­tor­i­cal indige­nous art] was nor­mally shown, is shown, and will prob-

ably be for­ever shown in mu­se­ums, where the em­pha­sis is re­ally on the cul­ture, as op­posed to the out­stand­ing ex­am­ples of art from those cul­tures. so they’re look­ing for typ­i­cal things that can ex­plain that cul­ture, whereas in an art mu­seum you have ex­cep­tional ex­am­ples of typ­i­cal ob­jects, and that’s how we’re re­defin­ing art for the na­tional Gallery. That it’s not just de­scen­dants of euro­peans, and it’s not just paint­ing and sculp­ture.

Q: Are there any sur­prises or any­thing in­ter­est­ing peo­ple might not ex­pect to find in this new gallery? a: well, the fact that we’re start­ing the euro­pean story with a woman i think is go­ing to be very in­ter­est­ing... we’re com­mit­ting to in­clude indige­nous art in the story now in a sys­tem­atic way. and i think peo­ple are go­ing to be very sur­prised by how beau­ti­ful the galleries are. They’re be­ing completely ren­o­vated: we’ve opened up door­ways, we’ve changed the colour of the floor, we’ve elim­i­nated walls, and put walls where walls weren’t. it’s a much more fluid space, you’re go­ing to be a lit­tle bit freer to skip a few decades if you want to go a lit­tle faster. [There'll] be lots of sur­prises, i think peo­ple will find it ex­hil­a­rat­ing.

salomon mar­ion snuff­box wiTh aGaTe, c. 1820 sil­ver, aGaTe, Gold, Gold al­loy, coP­Per, and brass, 2 x 7.6 x 5.4 cm

Pur­chased 2015 na­Tional Gallery of canada, oT­Tawa PhoTo: nGc

un­known (naskaPi arTisT) hunT­inG coaT, c. 1840 cari­bou hide, PainT, Thread, wool and Glass beads, over­all mea­sure­menTs on man­nequin: 95 x 80 x 50 cm

Pur­chased 2014 na­Tional Gallery of canada, oT­Tawa PhoTo: nGc

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