You can tell a great deal about a country by looking at the art that it produces and the art that it collects from abroad, and even more by analyzing it.
In fact it is among the most efficient ways to size up a society, to determine how resourceful it is, how rich, industrious, thoughtful, advanced, tolerant, and inclusive it is. We can assess the extent of our freedom and our confidence by looking at a good cross-section of the art that we make. We can also assess our level of maturity as a unified population by the frankness with which artists are able to explore our collective histories.
At Canada’s National Gallery we are sharing more of those stories than ever before – from the beginning of human time to the present day – in our commitment to exhibiting and preserving works of outstanding significance, works that tell our stories beautifully. In 2017, the sesquicentennial of Confederation, we are rearticulating our perspective on artmaking and providing a more comprehensive display of Canadian excellence in art created by a range of artists, notably women, Indigenous artists, Canadians of non-European descent, photographers, and video artists.
We are adapting the story of Canadian art to suit the needs of our own time. For instance, visitors may be surprised to know that Marie Lemaire des Anges, an Ursuline nun from New France – and a gifted embroiderer – is perhaps the first European artist, worthy of the name, to practice in Canada. It was time to tell her story.
Visitors to the Gallery will see that we believe we can tell the asymmetrical stories of both the land’s Indigenous and transplanted cultures simultaneously in the same rooms. Despite their stark asymmetries, to understand Canada one needs to know its many cultures, especially its oldest ones, their differences and their influence on each other, and where we are now.
It is this more inclusive, respectful and celebratory spirit that informs the new Canadian and Indigenous Galleries. Indeed, the Canadian perspective is revealed in all of the Gallery’s collections, including the pioneering Canadian Photography Institute; our significant international Contemporary Art collection; the European Art collection with some of the finest works from the 15th to the 21st century; and of course, our wonderful Old Master and Canadian Prints and Drawings collection.
We are committed to re-telling the Canadian story so it includes more of our stories – and this will be reflected in our curatorial approach for the coming years. To this end, there has been serious investment in the Gallery with new display cases and signage, a redesigned boutique, and much-needed technical upgrades – all to ensure an unforgettable experience. With some 400,000 visitors last year, people are coming from Canada and around the world in ever-increasing numbers, avid to see the exceptional works of art that we present.
Our commitment to enhancing the experience for every visitor to the Gallery – particularly through partnerships with fellow museums and archives, and a host of other cultural organizations – is equally strong. This is reflected in the growing number of visitors, followers on social media, National Gallery of Canada membership, annual giving and the remarkable achievements of the National Gallery of Canada Foundation. With your support, we can ensure that Canada’s extraordinary stories are told by the most eloquent works of art. Your encouragement means the world to us.