This exhibition welcomes visitors into the European galleries with an important question that we are currently asking: How can we admire objects of tremendous beauty and acknowledge the ugly, violent systems that produced them? Drawing upon the AGO’s collection of European and Indigenous art, as well as our archives, European Art on First Nations Land invites visitors to consider the role European Art plays in the history of colonization and the making of Canada.
From the 1400s onward, many European nations built vast empires using the labour of enslaved peoples and exploiting the resources of colonized lands. The profits from these enterprises financed art for the wealthy and powerful across Europe. When settlers brought art to this land, they imported their beauty standards, values, and narratives.
Paintings and sculpture made in Europe in the 1600s and 1700s hang with paintings by indigenous artists Norval Morrisseau and Kent Monkman. One rarely seen highlight is an architectural drawing presented for the AGO’s premises in the 1910s. Together, these works show the AGO’s past and present, with a look towards its future.