Contemporary Conversations

Art in Embassies


About the Series

We are excited to announce the continuation of Contemporary Conversations, a speaking series created in partnership with the Art in Embassies Program and the U.S. Embassy-Ottawa.

Contemporary Conversations invites important American artists to Ottawa for discussions on topics that transcend national borders, inspire critical thinking, and connect people across cultures. This year, Contemporary Conversations brought artists Kiki Smith and Theaster Gates to the NGC for a series of public lectures accompanied by temporary installations of their work.


With the support of the Embassy of the United States of America, Ottawa Canada.

Follow the conversation: #artconvoAIE

Next Event

Anne Chu (1959-2016)
Photo: Jen Fong
Hanging Goat
Anne Chu, 2008, National Gallery of Canada

Who is  the late Anne Chu?

Thursday 29 September 2016 at 6 pm
Free admission

Anne Chu was known for creating monumental works from wood, ceramic and papier mâché – sculptures that toy with our expectations about fine art materials. Scheduled to appear as the third and final artist of the 2016 Contemporary Conversations series, Chu died this year on 25 July.

Join us for an engaging discussion about her art, hosted by the Gallery’s Director and CEO Marc Mayer. Discover how Chu blended elements of ancient and modern art, abstraction and figuration, familiar and fantastical. You’ll also hear from Chu’s gallerist, Tracy Williams, in a conversation with Mayer following his presentation.

Seats in the Auditorium will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. There will also be a live broadcast of the event in the adjacent Lecture Hall.

In English: French simultaneous interpretation is available if a request is made to before 23 September 2016.

From 24 September, a selection of Chu’s work is on view in Gallery B201, including Hanging Goat from the national collection.

“I often will use a material in a way which is opposite of how one would think it is used.”

—Anne Chu

Past Events

Theaster Gates
Photo: Sara Pooley
Courtesy of the artist

Theaster Gates

Thursday 12 May 2016
He’s been described as an artist, community builder and potter, whose ambitions stretch far beyond the wheel and the kiln.

Award-winning, Chicago-based Theaster Gates sits down with Senior Curator of Contemporary Art Josée Drouin-Brisebois to discuss how he has expanded his artistic practice to include issues of land use, performance, object-making, and critical engagement with diverse audiences. Founder of the non-profit Rebuild Foundation, Gates is currently a Professor in the Department of Visual Art and Director of Arts and Public Life at the University of Chicago.

Kiki Smith
Photo: Kiki Smith Studio

Kiki Smith

Thursday 31 March 2016
Kiki Smith’s diverse and highly influential body of work includes sculpture, printmaking, photography, drawing, and textile. Balancing a quiet sensitivity to the natural world with a keen awareness of contemporary social issues, Smith’s work constantly invites us to reexamine ourselves, our histories, and our places in the world. In 2012, Smith was awarded the U.S. Department of State International Medal of Art award by Art in Embassies for outstanding work in the field of cultural diplomacy.

Stephen Wilkes
Photo: Courtesy of Greg Gorman

Stephen Wilkes

Thursday 19 November 2015
The fourth lecture in the 2015 series of public dialogues will feature Stephen Wilkes. A fine art and commercial photographer, Wilkes is known for capturing iconic images of American spaces and moments – from Ellis Island to the Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C.

In conversation with U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Bruce Heyman, Wilkes will discuss the impact of photography in the digital age and how photography can ultimately act as an agent for change, showcasing his Ellis Island and Day to Night series of work.

Eric Fischl
Photo: Courtesy of Ralph Gibson

Eric Fischl

Thursday 10 September 2015
The third in the series of public dialogues will feature internationally acclaimed American painter and sculptor Eric Fischl. Hailed as one of the most influential figurative artists of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, Fischl is well-known for the way his work conveys psychological nuances that characterize the various stages of life.

In conversation with National Gallery Director and CEO, Marc Mayer, Fischl will discuss his work and artistic approach to themes of private reflection, personal expression and public memorial.

Nick Cave
Photo : Courtesy of James Prinz

Nick Cave

Thursday 28 May 2015
The second of a series of four public and moderated discussions will feature Nick Cave – an internationally known artist and educator, but foremost a messenger, working between the visual and performing arts through a wide range of mediums, including sculpture, installation, video, sound and performance.

In conversation with the Gallery’s Associate Curator of Contemporary Art Jonathan Shaughnessy, the artist will discuss the evolution of his Soundsuits and his exploration of identity and civic responsibility through his work.

Marie Watt
Photo : Courtesy of Peter Jennings

Marie Watt

Marie is a multi-media artist of Seneca descent whose work explores human stories and rituals implicit in everyday objects, such as blankets, and their power and influence on community, culture and history. Marie Watt's biography

Contemporary Conversation with Marie Watt

Thursday 26 February 2015 at 6 pm
Marie and the Gallery’s Audain Curator of Indigenous Art, Greg Hill, will talk about Watt’s work Skywalker/Skyscraper (Babel). In the Auditorium followed by a reception in the Watercourt Foyer. Free Admission. In English with simultaneous translation.

Marie Watt: Sewing Circle

Saturday 28 February 2015 from 12 to 3 pm
Participate in a community sewing circle where your stitches will help form Marie Watts’s contribution to Unsuspected Possibilities, an exhibition that will be displayed at SITE Santa Fe this summer, featuring Watt, Leonardo Drew, and Sarah Oppenheimer. In exchange for your stitches, Marie Watt will reward you with a small original print.