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AGO’s new Department of Indigenous and Canadian Art launches major exhibitions by Kenojuak Ashevak and Tim Pitsiulak, and Rebecca Belmore

In addition, newly re-installed and re-named J. S McLean Centre for Indigenous and Canadian Art opens July 1 featuring more than 80 works by Inuit, Indigenous and Canadian artists

TORONTO — From the Department of Indigenous and Canadian Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) comes two major exhibitions – Tunirrusiangit: Kenojuak Ashevak and Tim Pitsiulak, and Rebecca Belmore: Facing the Monumental – and a massive renovation and re-visioning of the newly re-named J. S. McLean Centre for Indigenous and Canadian Art, led by curators Wanda Nanibush, Curator, Indigenous Art and Georgiana Uhlyarik, Fredrik S. Eaton Curator, Canadian Art.

“Wanda and Georgiana are leading important conversations about how to better reflect the Nation to Nation relationship that underlines the treaty relationship that allowed Canada to come into existence,” said Stephan Jost, the AGO’s Michael and Sonja Koerner Director and CEO. “These three projects not only mark the next step in the Gallery’s commitment, they signal our determination to exhibit the very best art. Kenojuak Ashevak, Tim Pitsiulak, and Rebecca Belmore are each profoundly important artists whose influence is global.”

Tunirrusiangit: Kenojuak Ashevak and Tim Pitsiulak

In Inuktitut, Tunirrusiangit means “their gifts”. Opening on June 16 in the Sam & Ayala Zacks Pavilion, Tunirrusiangit: Kenojuak Ashevak and Tim Pitsiulak highlights the artistic and family ties of two of Inuit art’s biggest names. Led by a curatorial team of Inuit artists and curators, the exhibition is a gift that comes to the AGO through the language, stories and its community’s perspective. 

“As Inuit artists who walk the path carved for us by our elders Qinnuajuaq Ashevak and Tim Pitseolak, we are in awe of what they accomplished,” said exhibition co-curator and performer Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory. “The blend of magic, realism and surrealism these two created in very different ways, allows us as the next generation of Inuit artists to continue breaking new ground, for ourselves, our families and communities and our audiences around the world.”

“For an urban Inuk like myself who has been living in the South and rarely sees the tundra, this project takes on even more meaning,” said co-curator Jocelyn Piirainen. “It means delving into my roots and connecting the old traditions with new ways of communicating.”

Organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario in partnership with Mobilizing Inuit Cultural Heritage, with the support of Dorset Fine Arts, a division of the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative, the exhibition’s curatorial team includes Inuit artists and curators Koomuatuk (Kuzy) Curley, Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, Taqralik Partridge and Jocelyn Piirainen with Georgiana Uhlyarik, Fredrik S. Eaton Curator, Canadian Art and Anna Hudson, professor, York University and Principal Investigator of the Mobilizing Inuit Cultural Heritage (MICH) project.

Kenojuak Ashevak (1927–2013) is Kinngait’s (Cape Dorset) most internationally acclaimed artist, renowned for her fluid graphic storytelling and keen design sensibility. Known as the Grandmother of Inuit Art, she is the most represented Inuit artist in the AGO’s collection and her tremendous legacy inspired her nephew Tim Pitsiulak (1967–2016) to create art at the Kinngait Studios. During his short career, he developed a signature approach to drawing rooted in a deep appreciation that “art is part of everything”. The exhibition, which is the first major retrospective of Pitsiulak’s work, presents a dynamic vision of contemporary Inuit life through over 110 drawings, sketches and rare works on paper.

Tunirrusiangit: Kenojuak Ashevak and Tim Pitsiulak is organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario in partnership with Mobilizing Inuit Cultural Heritage, with the support of Dorset Fine Arts, a division of the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative.

Lead Sponsor:
TD Bank Group

Generously supported by:
Goring Family Foundation
The Willmott Bruce Hunter Foundation

Heather M. Thomson & Richard M. Thomson

Supported by:
Canada Council for the Arts

Rebecca Belmore: Facing the Monumental

Giving voice to urgent issues through a poetic language all her own, Rebecca Belmore is one the most important contemporary artists working today. A member of Lac Seul First Nation (Anishinaabe), for over 30 years Belmore has voiced and embodied an ethos of remembering the forgotten and listening to the marginalized through photography, performance art, installation, sculpture and video. Belmore is the recipient of the 2016 Gershon Iskowitz Prize at the AGO.

Opening on July 12, 2018 and taking over the entire fifth floor of the AGO’s Contemporary Tower, Rebecca Belmore: Facing the Monumental is a survey exhibition with over 20 large scale artworks, featuring several new and recent works, including the fifteen foot projection on water Fountain (2005) and 2017’s moving tribute to residential school survivors At Pelican Falls, featuring video, sculpture and photos. Curated by Wanda Nanibush, the AGO’s Curator of Indigenous Art, the exhibition runs until October 21.  

“Beautifully delineating the line between poetics and politics, Facing the Monumental highlights the artist’s lifelong commitment to natural materials, to the body and to the act of listening,” said Wanda Nanibush, Curator of Indigenous Art. “Belmore’s images are deeply felt and leave an indelible mark on the viewer. In capturing the universal truths of pain, beauty, empathy, hope and transformation, her work positions the viewer as a witness, and encourages us all to face what is monumental.”

Rebecca Belmore: Facing the Monumental is organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Generously supported by:
The Women’s Art Initiative

In Partnership with:
The Gershon Iskowitz Foundation

Supported by:
Canada Council for the Arts

The J.S. McLean Centre for Indigenous and Canadian Art

The J.S. McLean Centre for Canadian Art closed for renovations on March 6, 2018 and will re-open on Canada Day on July 1, 2018, following an extensive renovation. The re-configuration and re-installation of the Centre will see works by Indigenous, Inuit and Canadian artists put into conversation across time, to better reflect the Nation to Nation relationship that Canada was built upon. In recognition that the AGO is located on Mississauga Anishinaabe territory, all texts in the McLean Centre will be trilingual – in Anishnaabemowin, English and French. The Inuit collection will feature texts in Inuktitut, along with English and French.

“The McLean Centre revitalization will enable the AGO to showcase contemporary Indigenous art in conversation with Canadian art, and to highlight critical discussions about identity, the environment, history and sovereignty,” said Wanda Nanibush, Curator, Indigenous Art.

“The re-opening of the McLean Centre is an exciting opportunity to place artists at the core of the installations, to tell stories from new perspectives and engage visitors with the very best works – both new and familiar – from the Gallery’s Indigenous and Canadian collection,” said Georgiana Uhlyarik, Fredrik S. Eaton Curator, Canadian Art.

Once open, the McLean Centre will feature works by Indigenous artists Carl Beam, Ruth Cuthand, Robert Houle, Robert Markle, Kent Monkman, Norval Morrisseau, Daphne Odjig, Jessie Oonark, Jane Ash Poitras and Jeff Thomas among others, along with Inuit artists Shuvinai Ashoona and Annie Pootoogook. Canadian artists will include Florence Carlyle, Emily Carr, June Clark, Lawren Harris, Jamelie Hassan, Kazuo Nakamura, Joanne Tod, Joyce Wieland and many more. In addition to the Indigenous and Canadian works positioned together, the Centre will include dedicated spaces for both Inuit art and sculpture, and Indigenous artists. This reinstallation is part of the larger Gallery-wide Look: Forward project begun in 2017.

The installation of the AGO’s Indigenous and Canadian Collection is generously supported by:
Andrew & Marianne Guizzetti
Robert Harding & Angel Yang
The McLean Foundation

ABOUT THE DEPARTMENT OF INDIGENOUS AND CANADIAN ART

Co-led by Wanda Nanibush, Curator, Indigenous Art and Georgiana Uhlyarik, Fredrik S. Eaton Curator, Canadian Art, the new Department of Indigenous and Canadian Art was created to better reflect the Nation to Nation relationship that underlines the treaty relationship that allowed Canada to come into existence. This new name acknowledges the historical and contemporary position of Indigenous Art as existing prior to and extending beyond Canada’s borders.

ABOUT THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

Located in Toronto, Canada’s largest city of 5.9 million, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is one of the largest art museums in North America. The AGO’s collection of close to 95,000 works ranges from cutting-edge contemporary art such as Untilled by Pierre Huyghe to European masterpieces such as Peter Paul Rubens’s The Massacre of The Innocents; from the vast collection by the Group of Seven to works by established and emerging Indigenous Canadian artists; with a photography collection that tracks the impact of the medium with deep holdings of works by artists such as Garry Winogrand and Diane Arbus; and with focused collections in Gothic boxwood miniatures and Western and Central African art. Drawing on this collection—as well as collaborations with museums around the world—the AGO presents wide-ranging exhibitions and programs, taking special care to showcase diverse and underrepresented artists. A major expansion designed by Frank Gehry in 2008 with lead support from the family of Ken Thomson makes the AGO a highly-photographed architectural landmark. Visit ago.ca and follow @AGOToronto to learn more.

Feb. 17 -  May 6, 2018:             Mitchell/Riopelle: Nothing in Moderation

March 3 – Mary 27, 2018:         Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors  

June 16 – Aug. 12, 2018:          Tunirrusiangit:Kenojuak Ashevak and Time Pitsiulak

July 12 – Oct. 21, 2018:            Rebecca Belmore: Facing the Monumental

Sept. 2018 – Jan. 2019:            Anthropocene

The Art Gallery of Ontario is funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. Additional operating support is received from the City of Toronto, the Canada Council for the Arts and generous contributions from AGO members, donors and private-sector partners.
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For hi-res images and other press inquiries, please contact:

Andrea-Jo Wilson; Senior Communications Officer
416-979-6660, ext. 403, andrea-jo_wilson@ago.net

Naomi Carniol; Associate Director, Communications
416-979-6660, ext. 364, naomi_carniol@ago.net

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