National Gallery of Canada / Musée des beaux-arts du Canada

Annual Bulletin 2, 1978-1979

Annual Index
Author & Subject

The Gallery and Government: the Larger Context

by Hsio-Yen Shih

Pages  1  |  2  

The next phase of building repair, planned for 1979-1980, requires replacement of the air-conditioning plant itself. The Lorne Building has been the Gallery' s temporary quarters for eighteen years now, and we must be prepared for extensive and continuous repair and maintenance. For example, winter conditions in Ottawa have damaged both the basement and sub-basement workshop areas, now resurfaced, and the loading ramp, which must still be reconditioned. Meanwhile, there has been no progress toward the next phase of building a suitable national gallery for Canada.

Only one major purchase proved to be possible in this fiscal year - Paul Klee's Angst of 1934. This was particularly fitting: this year was the centennial of his birth, and marked the first exhibition of his work in Canada. The exhibition was organized by the Gallery and was also seen at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.

In times of austerity, the Gallery needs all the help it can get. Happily, more donations came to the Gallery, for which we thank -

The Estate of Alfred Beale, late of London, England; 

The Estate of Maud Brown, widow of Eric Brown, the Gallery's first director;

Mme Marie Paul LaBrèque of Acton Vale, Quebec, upon her retirement from the Board of Trustees of the National Museums of Canada; 

The XI Commonwealth Games Foundation, Edmonton, Alberta;

Mr Rodney de Charmoy Grey of Geneva, Switzerland; 

Ms Naomi Jackson Groves of Ottawa, Ontario; Ms Phyllis Lambert of Montreal, Quebec;

Mr Herman Levy, O. B. E., of Hamilton, Ontario;

The National Gallery Association Docents;

Dr René Pomerleau of Quebec City, Quebec;

Mr Harold Schaeffer of Ottawa, Ontario;

Mr Charles Tabachnik of Toronto, Ontario;

Mr Joseph M. Tanenbaum of Toronto, Ontario;

Mr Max Tanenbaum of Toronto, Ontario;

Mr Christopher Varley of Edmonton, Alberta;

Mr Peter Zegers of Ottawa, Ontario.

A special vote of thanks is given for Mr Max Tanenbaum's gift of 35 sculptures from South Asia, dating from the second to eighteenth centuries. In the next two years, further gifts of Mughal and Pahari miniature paintings, Indian and Tibetan bronzes, and Tibetan thankhas, will be forthcoming from Mr Tanenbaum. The Gallery should, therefore, benefit by receiving an excellent coverage of an entire, new field for the collections.

In addition, Mr and Mrs Joseph M. Tanenbaum of the same family have pledged to bequeath their collection of nineteenth-century French and English works to the Gallery. The exhibition of their paintings and sculpture, The Other Nineteenth Century, travelled to four other centres across the country (Victoria, Calgary, Montreal and Toronto).

Private collections were also the source for Twenty-Five African Sculptures, an exhibition that demonstrated the richness of materials available in Canada.

A Canadian private collection, the Klee Stiftung in Berne, Switzerland, and the painter's son Felix Klee all contributed to the Paul Klee exhibition. Moreover, the Pro Helvetia Foundation generously provided funds towards colour separations for the Klee exhibition catalogue which has already been widely and favourably reviewed.

During the year twenty-four exhibitions were circulated to various parts of this vast country. Of these, Joseph Légaré and Our Own Country Canada received the greatest interest. Joseph Légaré should continue to have an effect even after the exhibition has been dismantled. While it was being viewed in four of Canada's major cities, the Gallery took the opportunity to collaborate with the National Film Board of Canada in producing a film. To be premiered in 1980, the Gallery's centennial year, and of suitable length for television, the film shows not only works by Joseph Légaré but also how some Canadians perceive that segment of their history and art.

The Michael Snow exhibition in Paris, organized by the Gallery, marked the first time an individual Canadian artist has been featured at the Centre Pompidou. The exhibition, billed as Snow Storms Paris, was so successful that it continued to the Boymans-van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam, the Netherlands; the Rheinisches Landesmuseum in Bonn and the Stádlische Galerie im Lenbachhaus of Munich, the Federal Republic of Germany; and the Kunstmuseum in Lucerne, Switzerland.

The Canadian contribution to the XXXVIII Venice Biennale, Ron Martin / Henry Saxe, was organized by the Gallery and subsequently shown at the Centre culturel canadien in Paris. While we are gratified by the reception given to our exhibitions abroad, it must also be said that our resources were strained to the limit in these efforts to reinforce the government's diplomatic activities.

The Gallery's publication efforts continued to thrive. Catalogues accompanied and remain as records of most of the Gallery's exhibitions. With these and many other publications, the Gallery continues to be the primary Canadian publisher in art history. Its labours were recognized by the Art Libraries Society of North America, with the 1978 Award for the excellence and diversity of the Gallery's entire publishing programme, and by the Printing Industries of America Award for Twenty-Five African Sculptures. Behind the scenes, planning and preparatory work for the 1980 centennial programme continued. More than 4,000 new photographs were taken in preparation for the publication of catalogues of the permanent collections.

Simultaneously, the Gallery's Restoration and Conservation Laboratory reviewed the condition of works of art stored outside the Lorne Building. The constant movement of these works into and out of external storage facilities has resulted in some degree of damage to almost seventy-five per cent of the works. This is particularly disheartening as the Gallery's collections in Canadian art, being the largest, must be stored in other parts of the city, and therefore it is the Canadian works that have suffered the greatest damage.

The Gallery is proud of its distinguished past and looks forward to a distinguished future. With the support of fellow Canadians, and with the greatest fortitude and ingenuity we can muster, we will be able to cope with the problems of the present.

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