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Donald and Beth Sobey donate Michel de Broin sculpture to National Gallery of Canada
Michel de Broin, Majestic 2011. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Gift from Donald R. and Beth Sobey, 2012. Photo © NGC.

OTTAWA.- Visitors to the National Gallery of Canada have no doubt recently noticed a monumental new sculpture at Nepean Point, behind the Gallery. The work, by the internationally known Canadian artist Michel de Broin, is entitled Majestic. Built from lampposts uprooted by Hurricane Katrina, the sculpture was donated by philanthropists Donald and Beth Sobey, well-known for their longstanding involvement with and support of the NGC and the Canadian visual arts community. Majestic is the first outdoor public sculpture by de Broin in the Nation’s capital and the third work by the artist to enter into the permanent collection.

“We are very grateful to former trustee and board chair Donald Sobey and his wife Beth for their generous donation of Michel de Broin’s spectacular sculpture,” said NGC director Marc Mayer. “This acquisition demonstrates our ongoing commitment to acquiring the most outstanding achievements in Canadian art for the permanent benefit of Canadians. We are also delighted to contribute to the quality of life in Ottawa with a new public sculpture that will undoubtedly increase the reasons to visit Nepean Point.”

In addition to making a strong addition to the national collection, Majestic will be part of the second biennial of Canadian art, Builders, which opens this Friday, November 2, at the Gallery.

“It was a great honor for me to serve as Chair of the Board of Trustees of the National Gallery of Canada for two terms. I especially had great pleasure working with the Director and Curators and all the staff of the Gallery, who worked so diligently at their tasks,” said Donald Sobey, former Chair of the National Gallery’s Board of Trustees. “Canada has a great jewel in the treasurers at the Gallery and it is enjoyed increasingly by Canadians across the country. It is a special pleasure to give a work of art created by Michel de Broin, a winner of the Sobey Art Award.”

Of his work, Michel de Broin says: "Majestic is designed from lampposts uprooted by Hurricane Katrina. Assembled around a steel core with its street lights flickering anew, this work examines notions of horizon, equilibrium and entropy. The repeated folding of the horizon causes the stellation of the vertical elements, a star that evokes the unity of the people who rallied to rebuild the city of New Orleans. The work is named for the site where it was born: the Majestic Mortuary, a funeral parlour in the city’s historical Faubourg Lafayette ward. I gave it this strange, untranslatable name because I like the idea of a birth taking place in a funeral home."

Ranging from historical to modern styles, the lamps represent the different districts of New Orleans where the lights once stood. Here de Broin combines identifiable remnants of the storm’s devastation to create a new functional arrangement using various styles of lamp posts (and their illumination) as a form of communication or intervention. Now permanently installed behind the NGC after several months in New Orleans, Majestic appears to have fallen from the sky, like a star or a satellite, and landed at Nepean Point. This is just what the artist seeks to do — insert his works into new contexts, thus surprising the viewer.

Michel de Broin earned his MFA in 1997 from the Université du Québec à Montréal and was the recipient of The Sobey Art Award in 2007. He is known internationally for his conceptually oriented art projects typified by an interest in bringing new life, meanings and contexts to found objects and “readymade” materials. In 2011 de Broin was invited to create a public sculpture for an off-site project curated by Third of May Arts Inc., in conjunction with the international biennial Prospect.2 New Orleans (2011). The result was Majestic, a monumental structure built from salvaged streetlamps that had been damaged and displaced after Hurricane Katrina.

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