ART GALLERY OF WINDSOR TURNS 75
Gallery’s Diamond Anniversary exhibit features both familiar and new works
A fascinating family reunion is happening now to mark the Art Gallery of Windsor’s 75th anniversary, with new faces and beloved works by renowned artists gathering to greet visitors attending the milestone celebration.
As with all great reunions, the AGW has many tales to tell, starting in 1943 with a group of art-loving female volunteers who applied their ingenuity to bring good shows to the city, wherever they could borrow space. After they obtained art for a permanent collection, the volunteers ensconced the new public gallery in Willistead Manor in Walkerville.
The collection has grown to nearly 4,000 pieces of historical, modern and contemporary art. Last year, approximately 16,000 people visited the AGW in its modernistic permanent building, erected in 2001 at 401 Riverside Dr. W. “Our collection is continuously evolving with changing exhibitions. We’re constantly mining our collection so people can see it in different ways,” says AGW Executive Director Catharine Mastin.
To mark its diamond anniversary, the AGW has launched its “Look Again! The AGW Collection at 75 Years” exhibit, running now till 2021. Visitors are pleased to see many of the AGW’s favourites from its varied collection, ranging from the 1600s to present day, including paintings by the Group of Seven and Emily Carr. “Art reflects where we are now in history,” Mastin observes.
Presenting some of the gallery’s most impressive holdings done before the 20th century, the Grand Salon wall has been refreshed with 49 works clustered in several tiers. There are also newcomers to meet during the 75th anniversary celebration, with 20 new acquisitions on display. The AGW team is delighted to introduce visitors to works by Angus Trudeau, Maurice Cullen, Baker Fairley, George Pepper, Barrie Jones, Bob Boyer and others.
Believing it is important to balance gender representation, the AGW staff and board have recently obtained works by numerous female artists, including Joyce Wieland, Isabel Hayeur, Mary Celestino and Mary Heister Reid.
The gallery has also strengthened its commitment to Indigenous and Inuit artists and is presenting newly acquired works by Norval Morrisseau, Daphne Odjig and more. Stone block carvings, prints and other pieces reveal dynamic messages and impressive skill. AGW curator of education Chris Finn has transformed the Cohen Gallery to showcase a special exhibit honouring Kenneth Saltmarche, an artist and AGW’s former longtime curator/director. On display are some of Saltmarche’s own drawings, oil paintings and watercolours – portraits, landscapes and travel scenes. “These works show how his art developed over stages and represent the different genres he explored as an artist over many years,” Finn says.
The Saltmarche exhibit also encompasses the AGW’s development throughout the decades, engaging people with art first at Willistead Manor, then at a former riverfront brewery, Devonshire Mall and finally, its present home. Culturally diverse artists and subjects are on view in the new Portraiture and the Body exhibit. Visitors can gain appreciation of the AGW’s many conservation projects by seeing the “after” results of works that have been cleaned of old glazes to reveal their true colours, such as George Pepper’s portrait of artist Lowrie Warrener. The AGW is excited to show one of its Lawren Harris’ oil sketches from the 1920s, which was recently cleaned and brought back to its original freshness.
To give visitors greater insight into the process of painting outdoors, the AGW has removed the frames from 19 sketch panels done by artists outdoors, affording a look at the plywood or stretched canvas and the painted outer edges. “These small sketches sometime served as templates for the artists after they returned to their studios to produce their much larger paintings,” Finn says. Included are works by Tom Thomson, A.Y. Jackson, Prudence Heward, and Windsor’s Thomas Roach.
Ensuring visitors will experience the AGW’s many treasures, hardworking volunteers and dedicated docents continue to connect people with art, taking school and community groups on tours throughout the gallery year-round. Last year, 3,400 students from kindergarten to grade 12 came on the tours. While the City of Windsor provides the physical space for the AGW, “as an independent charity, we need to raise funds every year so all of our resources can operate,” Mastin explains. “Knowing this, we strive to be a compelling, relevant public art gallery that people want to visit often and support.”
The AGW is open Wednesday to Sunday, and admission is $10 for Adults, $5 for Youth (ages 6-17) and $5 for Students.
Lauren Harris, painter from Canada’s iconic Group of Seven will have his Trees and Snow on display.
Emily Carr’s painting, Yan Mortuary Poles, c. 1928 - 1929.