The National Gallery of Canada’s Collection of Indigenous Art includes First Nations, Métis, and Inuit artworks, with an emphasis on contemporary art from 1980 to the present day.
The National Gallery of Canada has collected works by Indigenous artists since the early 20th century. Several works were purchased as contemporary art in the 1960s from such artists as Rita Letendre, Robert Markle, and Kenojuak Ashevak. In 1979 a major donation of silver from the family of Henry Birks also included several works by First Nations artists.
Carl Beam’s The North American Iceberg (1985) was purchased for the collection of contemporary art in 1986. This acquisition signalled a change in the collecting practices of the Gallery, opening the institution to the richness and diversity expressed in the artworks of the First Peoples of the lands now known as Canada. The collection of contemporary Indigenous art has grown steadily since this time and increasingly since the first international survey of contemporary Indigenous art, Land Spirit Power was held at the National Gallery of Canada in 1992. In 2002, the landmark exhibit Art of this Land included works by such artists as Alex Janvier, Daphne Odjig, and Allen Sapp alongside those of non-Indigenous artists.
In the galleries, visitors can currently view works by some of the best-known Indigenous artists in Canada including Carl Beam, Brian Jungen, Faye HeavyShield, Shelley Niro, Jeffrey Thomas, and Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun.
Audain Senior Curator of Indigenous Art