Aboriginal Art in the Collection of Indigenous Art
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 Aboriginal 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, some of which are on view in the Canadian galleries.
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 Aboriginal 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. Since 2002, the landmark exhibit Art of this Land has become an ongoing feature of the Canadian galleries and includes works by such artists as Alex Janvier, Daphne Odjig, and Allen Sapp alongside those of non-Aboriginal artists.
In the contemporary art galleries, visitors can view works by some of the best-known Aboriginal artists in Canada including Carl Beam, Bob Boyer, Joane Cardinal Schubert, Robert Davidson, Robert Houle, Brian Jungen, Faye Heavy Shield, Kent Monkman, Norval Morrisseau, Marianne Nicolson, Shelley Niro, and Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun.