Michael Snow
Clothed Woman (In Memory of my Father) 1963
oil and lucite on canvas
152 x 386.2 cm
Purchased 1966
National Gallery of Canada

National Gallery of Canada acquires thought-provoking Geoffrey Farmer art installation

Ottawa (Ontario) - February 4, 2009

Today the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) and the National Gallery of Canada Foundation announced the acquisition of Theatre of Cruelty, an immersive art installation by internationally-renowned Canadian artist Geoffrey Farmer. This significant work has been acquired through the generous support of the NGC Foundation’s Audain Endowment for Contemporary Canadian Art. Theatre of Cruelty represents a pivotal point in the evolution of the artist’s creative practice in which experience and imagination are blurred as he draws from narratives, forms and images taken from modernism, popular culture, theatre, literature and the everyday.

This installation turns the table on traditional ways of observing art by engaging the viewer as a participant. The audience is invited to enter into a reconstructed version of the artist’s studio and navigate through visual historical references, which speak of cruelty and violence, into a “dream scene” where inanimate objects seem to come to life through an elaborate orchestration of sound and light effects. 

 “This ambitious work by an important Vancouver artist strengthens our collection of installations,” said NGC Director, Marc Mayer. “We are indebted to Michael Audain and Yoshiko Karasawa for having established the Audain Endowment for Contemporary Canadian Art which facilitated this acquisition considerably.”

Theatre of Cruelty combines Farmer’s interest in politics, social history and psychology. Within it he sets up tensions between the animate and the inanimate, the active and passive and the real and artificial. It also reveals his longstanding interest in theatre and storytelling along with his more recent socially-engaged and increasingly process-oriented, transformative installation practice. Elaborate staging and a choreographed light and soundscape create a continually shifting experience.

Commenting on the acquisition, Michael Audain, Chair of the Audain Foundation and member of the NGC Board of Trustees said, “Contemporary art reveals to us the preoccupations of our age as expressed by exceptionally creative people. The endowment fund was established specifically for their point of view to be appreciated. I am delighted that it helped the National Gallery of Canada lead the way once again through this important acquisition.”

This is the second purchase made possible by the Audain Endowment, the first of which was People’s Flag by Brian Jungen in 2006. “This is a perfect example of how endowment funds allow us to augment and enrich the NGC Collections,” said NGC Foundation President and CEO Marie Claire Morin. “We are grateful to Michael Audain and his wife, Yoshiko Karasawa, for having shown such vision and commitment to contemporary Canadian art and the National Gallery of Canada.”

Theater of Cruelty is one of the works featured in Caught in the Act: The Viewer as Performer, an exhibition of contemporary art on view in the NGC’s Special Exhibition galleries until February 15, 2009.  The Gallery owns two other works by Geoffrey Farmer: an elaborate sculpture, Trailer (2002), and photographs from the Pale Fire Freedom Machine series (2005).

About Geoffrey Farmer
Geoffrey Farmer is an established contemporary Canadian artist whose work spans the realms of sculpture, photography, and multi-media installations. He is interested in the processes of theatre – of storytelling, staging, improvisation and the fabrication of reality. Consistently in a state of metamorphosis, Farmer’s works are often based in a found object, memory or dream and blur the boundaries between experience and imagination. Over the past decade, Farmer has achieved international recognition. His works have been presented in solo and group exhibitions across Europe and North America. Based in Vancouver, Farmer attended the San Francisco Art Institute (1991–1992) and graduated from the Emily Carr College of Art and Design in 1993.

About the National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery of Canada is home to the most important collections of historical and contemporary Canadian art in the world. In addition, it has pre-eminent collections of Indigenous, Western and European Art from the 14th to the 21st century, American and Asian Art as well as drawings and photography. Created in 1880, it is among 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 exhibition programs in North America.

About the National Gallery of Canada Foundation
Established in 1997, the National Gallery of Canada Foundation is dedicated to providing the National Gallery of Canada and its affiliate, the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, with additional financial support needed to preserve and promote Canada's rich visual art heritage and make art accessible and meaningful to Canadians. The blend of private philanthropy and public support is vital to the National Gallery’s ability to carry out its programs and fulfill its unique mandate. The Foundation welcomes immediate and deferred gifts for special projects and endowments. To find out more, visit the NGC Foundation website.
About the Audain Foundation
Established in 1997, The Audain Foundation has made grants to 35 organizations for projects related to the visual arts. Michael Audain, Chairman of the Vancouver-based Polygon Homes Ltd., and his wife, Yoshiko Karasawa, have been active supporters of the arts for over 25 years. Serving on the Vancouver Art Gallery board for many years, including in the role of president, Michael is now Chair of their Foundation. In 2004, Business for the Arts honoured Michael with the Edmund C. Bovey Award for leadership in the arts. He was appointed to the National Gallery of Canada Board of Trustees in 2005. In 2007, he was appointed to the Order of British Columbia.

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For more information, please contact:
Josée-Britanie Mallet
Senior Media and Public Relations Officer
National Gallery of Canada

Claire Schofield
Manager, Communications and Public Relations
National Gallery of Canada

Lyse Teasdale
Chief, Communications and Stewardship
National Gallery of Canada Foundation