Carving an Identity: Inuit Sculpture from the Permanent Collection On View at the National Gallery of Canada
Ottawa, Canada - November 20, 1999
« Un art qui s'affirme. La sculpture inuit de la collection permanente une exposition à voir au Musée des beaux-arts du Canada »
The National Gallery of Canada is pleased to present Carving an Identity: Inuit Sculpture from the Permanent Collection, a year-long exhibition showcasing some 70 works by 50 of the most significant sculptors featured in the Gallery's exceptional collection of Inuit art. It will be on view from 26 November 1999 through 26 November 2000 in the Inuit Galleries.
The presentation of Carving an Identity recognizes certain important events and landmarks tied to Inuit art and culture, such as the creation of the new territory of Nunavut earlier this year. Also, November 1999 marks the 50th anniversary of the first public showing and sale of Inuit sculpture, which took place in Montreal at the Canadian Handicrafts Guild in 1949 (now the Canadian Guild of Crafts, Quebec). The event became an important catalyst for the further support and development of a significant new period of indigenous art.
In 1949, neither the sculptors nor the organizers had any notion that this essentially experimental activity would, in short order, blossom into a cultural and artistic phenomenon that would garner international interest and acclaim. Fifty years later, the works of artists such as Karoo Ashevak, Kiawak Ashoona, Osuitok Ipeelee, John Tiktak, Lucy Tasseor Tutsweetok, and Oviloo Tunnillie are represented in major public collections across Canada, including that of the National Gallery of Canada. "The North is no longer isolated from the rest of Canada, or indeed, the world," stated Pierre Théberge, Director of the National Gallery of Canada. "Remarkably, art, and especially sculpture, has played an important role in this transition, and the Gallery is pleased to present some of the finest pieces from its collection."
The National Gallery's collection of Inuit sculpture focuses on artistic production since the late 1940s – what is now known as the contemporary period during which sculptors produced a vast compendium of images related to Inuit life and culture. Mirrored in these images are the people themselves, the animals that supply food, clothing, and most other material goods, the spiritual forces that inhabit the land, and the myths and legends that bind humans, animals, and spirits together in a code of behaviour that still holds sway.
Created in a wide range of materials (including soapstone, steatite, granite, ivory, whale bone, and caribou bone), the sculptures are the combined product of individual artistic interests, local culture, the comings and goings of advisors, and a distant southern market. The resulting works would be of enduring interest for their documentary value alone. But the wonder of it all is that a great many artists have gone far beyond the literal – bringing drama, humour, and passion to their individual notions of showing the truth.
Within the long and impressive history of Inuit carving, it is fascinating to observe the expression of men and women dealing with accelerated social, economic, and political change, as manifested in contemporary sculpture, examples of which may be viewed in this exhibition.
A media preview will take place on Thursday 25 November from 10 am to noon in the Inuit Galleries. Marie Routledge, Associate Curator, Inuit Art, National Gallery of Canada, and organizer of the exhibition will be present to lead a tour and answer questions.
To complement the exhibition, an illustrated handout will be available in bilingual English/Inuktitut and French/Inuktitut editions. A gallery talk with Marie Routledge will take place on Sunday 28 November at 3 pm in the Inuit Galleries. Admission to the exhibition and the gallery talk is free.
On Sunday 27 February 2000, meet at the Gallery's Artissimo kiosk in the Great Hall for Ilagiiktut, an Inuit Family Funday. Ilagiiktut is a day-long exploration on Inuit art and culture through music, stories, and games. Admission is free but donations are accepted. Check the National Gallery's Website for more events taking place in the summer of 2000.
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