December 26, 2019
The best of 2019 Canadian visual arts: an essential year of Indigenous work, at home and abroad, including Contemporary Calgary
by Kate Taylor
INUIT ART CENTRE AT THE WINNIPEG ART GALLERY
The most anticipated Canadian art opening of 2020 is now scheduled for late November when the Winnipeg Art Gallery will unveil its Inuit Art Centre.
The Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) began collecting Inuit art back in the 1950s and it holds the largest public collection in the world – thanks in part to a 2016 deal with the government of Nunavut. The territory has sent more than 7,000 pieces south on a long-term loan, a collection that now accounts for about a third of the WAG’s holdings. The art includes contemporary prints, drawings and sculptures, and rare historic pieces, most of which will be on public display for the first time. The centre will feature a glass vault, a system of open storage letting visitors see a larger number of works.
Meanwhile, the WAG is working with Inuit curators and artists to ensure the North has access to the collection, which will also be available online.
CENTENARY OF THE GROUP OF SEVEN
One hundred years ago, seven Toronto painters with a modernist approach to the Canadian landscape declared themselves a movement; today, international art lovers are increasingly intrigued by the Group of Seven. This centenary year, Frankfurt, Germany’s Schirn Kunsthalle is organizing a major Canadian show with help from the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Ontario, which are both contributing loans of work never seen in Germany. Magnetic North: Imagining Canada in Painting, 1910-1940 opens Sept. 25 and will discuss the creation of national myths while including Indigenous perspectives.
At home, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ont. offers ‘A Like Vision’: The Group of Seven at 100, a year-long exhibition opening Jan. 25. It will be accompanied by a small show of canvases by Tom Thomson, the painter who inspired the Group, but died three years before it was formed.
Then in June, the McMichael will balance the all-male picture with Uninvited: Canadian Women Artists in the Modern Moment. As well as Emily Carr, that show includes works by Yvonne McKague Housser and Florence Wyle, artists who may yet become Canadian household names.
Similar to a rocket, Calgary’s newest art institution is launching in phases: The first installment of the Centennial Planetarium renovation has transformed the area that previously housed the children’s museum into contemporary art galleries. It will be unveiled Jan. 23 as Contemporary Calgary now moves to six-day-a-week opening hours.
The inaugural programming takes a cosmological theme. It will feature Museum of the Moon, a seven-metre reproduction of the moon created by British artist Luke Jerram using imagery from NASA, and a show in which 36 Calgary artists respond to the old planetarium site.
RIOPELLE AT THE MONTREAL MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts takes a fresh look at Quebec abstractionist Jean-Paul Riopelle with Riopelle: The Call of Northern Landscapes and Indigenous Cultures, arguing the modernist painter was greatly influenced by travels to the Canadian North. The exhibition, which opens Sept. 19, will also include Inuit and Northwest Coast masks that inspired the artist.
PICASSO AT THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO
The Art Gallery of Ontario is collaborating with the Phillips Collection in Washington to mount a major show devoted to Pablo Picasso’s Blue Period, which marked the Spanish artist’s first trips to Paris and introduction to Post-Impressionism. Opening June 27, Picasso: Painting the Blue Period will unveil recent scientific analysis of the artist’s subjects and techniques.