After many years of planning and nine months of construction the National Gallery of Canada
has opened the new Canadian and Indigenous Galleries. It is the first major gallery transformation at the NGC since the buildings inauguration in 1988. Internationally renowned museum design firm Studio Adrien Gardère reconfigured the galleries to create spacious rooms that are ideally suited to present close to 800 works of art from the NGCs collections of Canadian and Indigenous art, and photographs, alongside loans of historical Indigenous sculptures and objects by Inuit, Métis, and First Nation artists. The transformed galleries incorporate the most up to date museum LED lighting technology, accessibility standards, and custom-made display cases that bring artworks closer to viewers, creating an enhanced visitor experience.
The newly transformed galleries provide the ideal setting to tell a more complete story of artmaking in this land, which dates back thousands of years, said National Gallery of Canada Director and CEO, Marc Mayer. By the time the National Gallery was founded in 1880, the country was emerging as home to a rich mosaic of artistic practice. We worked closely with partner institutions and Indigenous communities to create a meaningful display, representative of Canadas unique diversity and heritage.
Canadian and Indigenous Art
The Canadian and Indigenous Galleries are home to a new presentation titled Canadian and Indigenous Art: From Time Immemorial to 1967 featuring some of the best examples of art made in Canada over the past ten centuries. The works are largely arranged chronologically, beginning with ancient Indigenous art objects and examples of the religious art of New France, and ending with modern Inuit sculptures and geometric abstract paintings. Visitors will not only reacquaint themselves with popular favourites by James W. Morrice, Tom Thomson, David Milne, Lawren Harris, Prudence Heward, Daphne Odjig, Jean Paul Riopelle, and Joyce Wieland, among others, but also discover recent acquisitions. These include a mid-nineteenth-century Ceremonial Coat by an unknown Naskapi artist, William Raphaels painting Bonsecours Market, Montreal, 1880, and Emily Carrs sketchbook from her 1907 trip to Alaska. Inuit sculptures and works on paper, which until recently were on view in a separate gallery, are now fully included and on display. Selections from the Gallerys outstanding collection of silver have a prominent place throughout the galleries.
Late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century bronze sculptures by Alfred Laliberté and Louis- Philippe Hébert, as well as Michael Belmores 2015 installation, The Lost Bridal Veil, another new acquisition, have been installed by the reflective pool in the Michael and Sonja Koerner Family Atrium. The Garden Court has also been renewed with a design by Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, who worked jointly with Vancouver landscape architects Enns Gauthier.
The National Gallery borrowed ninety-five historical Indigenous artworks from museums and private collectors in Canada and abroad, including the Bata Shoe Museum, Chief James Hart of the Haida Nation, the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg Cultural Centre, and the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. A new partnership with the Canadian Museum of History has enabled the Gallery to augment the story with no fewer than forty loans including a remarkable North-West Coast Raven Sun Transformation Mask by Marven G. Tallio. Thirty-six additional Canadian artworks were borrowed from Library and Archives Canada, the Musée des Ursulines de Québec, the Canadian War Museum, and private lenders. Among those loans, the Altar frontal of the Immaculate Conception, 1686-1717, an embroidery by Ursuline nun Marie Lemaire des Anges, is on display for the first time outside Québec City. A coat adorned with traditional decorative and symbolic motifs worn by reverend Peter Jones, on loan from the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., is also on view. Owing to the fragile nature of several of the loans, selected pieces will be rotated throughout the year, providing a renewed experience for gallery goers during every visit.
Photographs and Videos
Interspersed among the paintings, sculptures and art objects are selections from the Gallerys collection of Canadian photographs. The portraits, landscapes and urban scenes provide an overview of the development of photography in Canada from the 19th century to the mid-20th century. Two galleries in the newly designed space are dedicated to the display of photographs from Library and Archives Canadas comprehensive collection, as part of an agreement established in 2015. A National Film Board of Canada screening room showing four short films by Indigenous artists in the Souvenir Series is also part of the new installation.