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Activist Collectors share their Contemporary Coast Salish Collection at the AGGV
Susan Point, Yellow and Red Cedar Weave, 2003. Carved yellow and red cedar; copper
Salish Weave Collection. Photograph by Janet Dwyer.

VICTORIA.- The extraordinary, contemporary Coast Salish art collection of Victoria residents George and Christiane Smyth will be presented at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria beginning in the New Year.

Opening Jan. 6 and running through May 6, 2012, Victoria Collects: The Salish Weave Collection is a companion exhibition to Victoria Collects opening at the AGGV on Feb. 6.

When discussing their role as collectors, George Smyth said, “Our collection is a noun AND a verb. The objects are nouns; what we do with the collection is the verb.” For this reason they call themselves “Activist Collectors”; their mission is to promote the works not just passively acquire and display them.

The seeds of the Smyth’s collection were sewn in the late 1990’s with the purchase of Coast Salish art to decorate the walls of their home. In the coming years they found that they were consistently drawn to the graphic aesthetic particular to the Coast Salish traditions and began to recognize the specific designs elements such as ovals, crescents and trigons that distinguish Coast Salish art from other better known Northwest Coast art. Today they collect in order to share with the public and to educate the public about this significant First Nations artwork that is specific to where we live.

With their 2004 acquisition of Yellow and Red Cedar Weave by Susan Point, the Smyths were inspired to name their collection The Salish Weave Collection to represent the weaving of different artists and art forms. George and Christiane chose not to include their name in the title of the collection, so that they could actively use the collection to promote Coast Salish art and its artists, taking the emphasis off themselves as collectors. However, in this exhibition we celebrate their unique approach to collecting in addition to the stunning art that makes up their collection.

Important to the Smyth’s philosophy is their direct support of local artists. The Smyths support the artists by buying directly from them as well as from the galleries that represent them. They also commission works and purchase large scale works of art that they loan to significant institutions including Vancouver’s Museum of Anthropology. Artworks from the Salish Weave Collection have been part of major exhibitions locally, nationally and internationally. In addition, the Smyths have donated art to the National Gallery of Canada, the University of Victoria, Simon Fraser University and Stanford University in California, among other cultural and education institutions.

“Of all of the collectors I have met in Victoria, this couple is the most singularly focused and, possibly, the hardest working. They collect nothing but Coast Salish art because they really believe in it and feel that for too long it has not received the recognition it deserves. What they have done with the collection, commissioning, lending, donating, and supporting educational endeavours is allowing contemporary Coast Salish artists and their artwork to be recognized locally and around the world,” said AGGV Chief Curator, Mary Jo Hughes.

Victoria Collects: The Salish Weave Collection includes 20 recent works by Canadian Coast Salish artists Susan Point, lessLIE, Maynard Johnny Jr., Dylan Thomas, John Marston, Luke Marston, Angela Marston, and Chris Paul. It includes examples of carving, painting, and printmaking representing the particular design elements, imagery, and narratives specific to Coast Salish traditions. In sharing a portion of their large collection for this exhibition, the Smyths hope they can allow further public appreciation of some of the most vibrant contemporary art happening in our region.

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