Wednesday, September 13, 2017

History of Canadian art... since time immemorial

A special show in conjunction with the opening of the National Gallery of Canada's new Canadian and Indigenous Galleries, from Time Immemorial to 1867, just ended in Ottawa. But the newly reorganized permanent exhibition remains.  I'm kinda loving that "salon" presentation, with scores of works mixed together against a colorful wall. (The Art Gallery of Ontario's 19th century Canadian collection uses a similar presentation).

I recently came across an account by the American science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson of a visit to a conference in Ottawa in the 1980s, during which he took in the National Gallery,
[I] went to the Europe floor and was really unimpressed. I was in the elevator leaving the building, thinking Poor Canada, so culturally deprived, they have even managed to acquire five bad van Goghs, maybe the five worst van Goghs of all -- when the elevator doors opened on the Canadian floor, revealing several giant canvases of the Group of Seven. I got out there and had one of the most visually stunning hours of my life.  I learned that Canada does not need van Goghs. 
And that was before the "new" National Gallery opened in 1988. I've had an experience like that with the National Gallery's Canadian spaces too -- some pretty terrific stuff there. This exhibit in which indigenous art is made central, women artists get their due, there is more photographic art, and new ideas in layout and presentation are attempted, sounds even better.

Hmm, who is gonna send a writer to Ottawa sometime soon?  
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