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National Gallery of Canada's exhibition spaces transformed by Studio Adrien Gardère
Canadian and Indigenous Art: From Time Immemorial to 1967, installation view, June 2017, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Photo: NGC.

OTTAWA.- The $7.4M CAD renewal of the exhibitions spaces for the Canadian and Indigenous Galleries is the first major transformation at the National Gallery since the building’s inauguration. It represents a radical new approach to the curatorial presentation of artworks, as the National Gallery is shifting the narrative of how to tell a more inclusive story of art in the country.

After several years of planning and nine months of construction, the National Gallery has officially opened the Canadian and Indigenous Galleries, designed by award-winning architects, Studio Adrien Gardère.

Founded in 2002, Studio Adrien Gardère is currently working on several projects with the Royal Academy of Arts in London, with architects Foster+Partners on the Musée Régional in Narbonne, and with Bernard Desmoulin Architects on the Musée de Cluny in Paris, among others.

Drawing upon Moshe Safdie’s architecture, Studio Adrien Gardère developed a vision to expand views, passages and sources of natural light, creating a more flexible and inviting experience. Its objective was to give a new breath to the spaces, improve the experience of visitors and create a real encounter and dialogue between the Indigenous and Canadian collections.

“My job has been to make this dialogue possible in terms of architecture, in terms of design, in terms of lighting, in terms of deambulation, the way people are going to wander into the galleries and create a new approach of the architecture, allowing and making this dialogue even more relevant and more understandable by the greatest number of people,” noted architect Adrien Gardère.

“The transformation has an objective and a scope that is not only artistic but political: to create within the galleries a visual, intellectual and historical dialogue between collections that belonged to the same land and were produced in the same time but until now, were presented in separate galleries.”

Although the transformation of the galleries presented many architectural challenges, the result is a stunning presentation of close to 800 works of art from the National Gallery’s collections of Canadian and Indigenous art and photographs, alongside loans of historical Indigenous sculptures and objects by Inuit, Métis and First Nation artists.

The 4,200 m2 of gallery space incorporates the most up-to-date museum LED lighting technology and custom-made display cases, bringing artworks closer to viewers and creating an enhanced visitor experience. 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.

“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. “We worked closely with partner institutions and Indigenous communities to create a meaningful display, representative of Canada’s unique diversity and heritage.”

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