When the National Gallery of Canada was established in 1880, its collection consisted of a single 19th-century landscape. Nearly 140 years later, the Gallery is home to more than 75,000 works of art, along with extensive library and archival holdings. Comprising works from antiquity to the present day, the Gallery has one of the finest collections of Canadian and Indigenous art in the world, as well as masterworks from numerous other artistic traditions.
In addition to showcasing works of art, the Gallery preserves, studies and shares works in every conceivable medium, including photography, sculpture, painting, installation and the decorative arts. It does this through conventional means such as exhibitions and publications, as well as through its website, social media channels and other forms of international outreach.
Housed in one of Canada’s most iconic public buildings, the National Gallery of Canada is among the world’s most respected art institutions. As part of its ongoing evolution, and in response to the changing expectations of museumgoers, the Gallery recently renewed its entire narrative on Canadian and Indigenous art, sharing a new and compelling story of artistic production in this country, from time immemorial to the present day.
While remaining committed to core values that include tradition, outreach and the sharing of knowledge, the National Gallery remains ever-alert to new ways of connecting with audiences, while showcasing the importance of art to the human condition — now and for generations to come.
Clarendon Hotel, 1880
Supreme Court Building, 1882
Victoria Hall, 1888
Victoria Memorial Museum, 1911
Lorne Building, 1960
National Gallery of Canada, 1988
The story of the National Gallery of Canada is also the story of the buildings in which it has been housed. Following its founding in 1880, the Gallery occupied five different spaces, before finally settling in the stunning building it now calls home.
The Gallery’s first exhibition in 1880 was held in the former Clarendon Hotel, at the corner of Sussex Drive and York Street. Two years later, the Gallery moved to its first permanent home: two converted rooms in the original Supreme Court Building on Wellington Street, near Parliament Hill. In 1888, the Gallery moved again, taking up residence in a larger space in Victoria Hall, at the corner of Queen and O'Connor Streets.
The Gallery moved again in 1912, this time into the Victoria Memorial Museum building, today home to the Canadian Museum of Nature, where it remained until 1959. In 1960, the Museum set up shop in the Lorne Building on Elgin Street.
In 1982, after several unfruitful attempts to find it suitable permanent premises, the federal government announced the appointment of Canadian Moshe Safdie as lead architect for a new building, which would be constructed at the intersection of Sussex Drive and St. Patrick Street. On May 21, 1988, the Gallery welcomed the first visitors to its brand-new home.