Curator(s): Julie Decker, Director and CEO; Aaron Leggett, Curator of
Alaska History and Culture; Monica Shah, Director of Collections and Chief Conservator Number of works: 150 Inuit; 5,403 Iñupiaq works
First work(s): The first Iñupiaq work, a walrus ivory carving of a seal, was donated in one of the first collections accessioned in 1955.
Recent acquisition(s): Three recent photographs by Iñupiaq artist Brian Adams.
Significant exhibitions: The museum presents exhibits with a focus on the art, history and science of the North. Recent notable projects include View From Up Here: The Arctic at the Center of the World (2016), Arctic Ambitions: Captain Cook and the Northwest Passage (2015), and Dena’inaq’ Huch’ulyeshi: The Dena’ina Way of Living (2014).
Interesting/unique/surprising works in the collection: Sylvester Ayek’s Mask Mobile.
(1974)—based on a nineteenth-century Tikigaq (Point Hope) mask, currently in the National Museum of Denmark’s collection—features a fascinating deconstructivist approach. The ivory collection spans many centuries and reflects both Iñupiaq culture and western influences, including a Mutt and Jeff ivory set, undoubtedly inspired by the newspaper comic strip.
The museum is undertaking an expansion to its facility that will fulfill the need to create an equal emphasis on disciplines in terms of dedicated gallery space. The new Art of the North Galleries will add dedicated spaces for northern art and artists and are scheduled to open to the public in September 2017. While the new galleries are entirely dedicated to the art collection, they are part of a greater narrative that combines other disciplines to convey the complexity of the people and landscape of the North. — JD