In the Shadow of the Midnight Sun: Sámi and Inuit Art 2000 – 2005
Ottawa - May 21, 2008
A unique exhibition bringing together contemporary works by Inuit artists from Canada and Sámi artists from Finland, Norway, and Sweden
At the National Gallery of Canada from 23 May to 17 August 2008
This spring and summer, the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) hosts In the Shadow of the Midnight Sun: Sámi and Inuit Art 2000–2005, a unique exhibition presenting contemporary artworks by indigenous groups living on two continents north of the Arctic Circle. Organized and circulated by the Art Gallery of Hamilton, this exhibition brings together seventy works created between 2000 and 2005 by Canadian Inuit artists and Sámi artists from Finland, Norway, and Sweden. Using a wide range of media, these works – sculpture, painting, drawings, prints, and photographs – offer a glimpse into the affinities and contrasts between the two Arctic peoples. Presented at the NGC with the support of the embassies of Finland, Norway, and Sweden, the exhibition gives an overview of many facets of Sámi and Inuit art.
“Indigenous art is very important to the NGC,” noted the director of the NGC, Pierre Théberge, “and so we are very pleased to host this magnificent exhibition during the summer. The art presented tells the history of indigenous peoples within each country, brought into the present day in form and content.”
“This is the first time that the contemporary art of our Arctic peoples is being presented in an exhibition,” observed the Norwegian ambassador, Tor Berntin Næss. “It is an honour and a privilege for us to collaborate with the NGC on this unique exhibition featuring the talented artists of northern Canada, Finland, Norway, and Sweden.”
An inspiring visit
The idea of an exhibition featuring the art of indigenous peoples of two countries – the Sámi of Norway and the Inuit of Canada – had its genesis in 2001, before the expected visit to Canada by the Norwegian royal family. The project never came to fruition, but the idea was then taken up in 2005 by the Art Gallery of Hamilton. Since the Sámi people live not just in Norway but also in Sweden and Finland, it was decided to include works by artists from each of these countries. To create a unifying concept, the guest curator, Jean Blodgett, chose to devote the exhibition to works created between 2000 and 2005.
A revelation in poetry
The title of the exhibition, In the Shadow of the Midnight Sun, is taken from a book of contemporary Sámi prose and poetry edited by Harald Gaski (Karasjok, Davvi Girji). This poetic phrase emphasizes the distance that separates the Inuit and Sámi from the more populated areas to the south. They are far enough away, in their land of the midnight sun, to retain an element of romantic exoticness for many people. The exhibition reveals a recent aspect of the life of indigenous peoples of the Arctic: art.
Two Arctic cultures exhibited side by side
In her essay in the exhibition catalogue, guest curator Jean Blodgett explains, "The intention of this exhibition was to present recent work by Sámi and Inuit artists; not necessarily to make comparisons between the two. However, their juxtaposition – purposely displayed side by side in the exhibition – invites at least an attempt at comparison. And sometimes such comparisons reveal heretofore unseen or unrecognized characteristics in common." Later, she continues that "The most obvious difference between the art made by Sámi and Inuit artists in this exhibition is of scale and format. A number of the Sámi artists, especially the painters, work on a scale much larger than that of Inuit drawings, prints or paintings. Other Sámi artists work in a series format, building up a display of substantial scope by the repetition of a particular theme in photographs or paintings." She adds that "Several Sámi works in the exhibition can be compared with Inuit works on the simple basis of media used. Both Sámi and Inuit women have adapted their sewing skills from making clothing to creating colorful wall mounted textiles and wall hangings."
In the Shadow of the Midnight Sun: Sámi and Inuit Art 2000–2005 was organized and circulated by the Art Gallery of Hamilton. Presented at the NGC with the support of the embassies of Finland, Norway, and Sweden, the exhibition was also made possible, in part, by the Department of Canadian Heritage’s Museums Assistance Program, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the City of Hamilton.
An English-language catalogue accompanies this exhibition. Published by the Art Gallery of Hamilton (AGH), this 65-page book includes a preface by the president and executive director of the AGH, Louise Dompierre; essays by the guest curator, Jean Blodgett, of Canada, and the Norwegian curator, Irene Snarby, an expert in Sámi art; and more than seventy colour plates of works in the exhibition. Offered with an insert with French-language versions of the essays, published by the NGC, the catalogue is on sale at the NGC Bookstore for $40, plus GST, and at http://www.shopngc.ca/, the Gallery’s online store.
On Sunday 25 May, the public is invited to attend two lectures on the works in the exhibition. At 2 p.m., the curator of the exhibition and a well-known expert on Inuit art, Jean Blodgett, will be speaking. Her presentation will be followed, at 3 p.m., by a talk by Irene Snarby, curator of Sámi art at the RiddoDuottartMuseat in Karasjok, Norway. Presented in English with simultaneous interpretation, these lectures will be given in the NGC’s Auditorium. Cost: Adults, $5; seniors and full-time students, $4; members, $3. Free admission for children under 12 years of age (ticket required). Does not include admission to the Gallery.
Admission and NGC hours
Tickets are now on sale at $9 for adults, $7 for seniors and full-time students, $4 for youths aged 12 to 19 years, and $18 for families (two adults and three children). Admission is free of charge for children under 12 and for Friends of the Gallery. This includes admission to the NGC Collection. Tickets are available by telephone at 613-998-888 or 1-888-541-8888 and at http://www.shopngc.ca/.
Until 30 September, the NGC is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursdays until 8 p.m.
Jean Blodgett is among the best-known curators of Inuit art in Canada. An expert in Inuit art, she has done extensive research in the areas of art of First Peoples and the contemporary period. Ms. Blodgett has worked as a curator and administrator in Manitoba and Ontario since the 1970s. Over the course of her career, she has made many trips to the Arctic, visiting villages in Alaska and Canada, in addition to visiting Greenland and northern Norway.
About the National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery of Canada is home to the most important collection of historical and contemporary Canadian art in the world. In addition, it has pre-eminent collections of Inuit, Western and European Art from the 14th to the 21st century, as well as American and Asian Art. Created in 1880, it is amongst the oldest of Canada’s national, cultural institutions. As part of its mandate to make Canadian art accessible across the country, the NGC has one of the largest touring art exhibition programs in North America. For more information, visit http://www.gallery.ca/.
About the Hamilton Art Gallery
Founded in 1914, the Art Gallery of Hamilton (AGH) is Ontario’s third largest public art gallery. It owns one of the finest collections of art in Canada, featuring over 9,000 works of art including historical European, historical Canadian and contemporary art. The AGH presents – in its recently-renovated and award-winning premises – present exhibitions that change three times a year. For more information, visit http://www.artgalleryofhamilton.com/.
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