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Winnipeg Art Gallery is heating up this spring - Darlene Coward Wight (left), WAG curator of Inuit art giving a tour of the vault to Tourism Winnipeg staff (Tourism Winnipeg)

Darlene Coward Wight (left), WAG curator of Inuit art giving a tour of the vault to Tourism Winnipeg staff (Tourism Winnipeg)

By: Only in the PegMarch 22, 2017 // Attractions

There’s so much on the horizon at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) that it’s hard to know where to begin. 

Ground will soon be broken on the Inuit Art Centre, which will be both a showcase for the world’s largest collection of contemporary Inuit Art and a stunning new architectural and cultural hub for Winnipeg, while this spring/summer Winnipeg audiences will be treated to exhibits featuring the 20th century’s most-famous artist, along with a special project that will connect Canada from coast-to-coast through creativity and creation as part of Canada’s 150th. 

On top of that, right now in the WAG you can catch some extraordinary exhibits, including Tom Thompson and the Group of Seven; Wanda Koop: VIEW from HERE; Boarder X – which features the works of Indigenous artists on mediums including snowboards, surfboards, and skateboards (exhibit closes on April 2nd, so you’ll have to hurry in to see it); along with one of the world’s most famous statues, Rodin’s Le Pensuer (The Thinker).

Inuit Art Centre

To paraphrase the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s CEO and director Stephen Borys, Canada’s Inuit population is only about 60,000 people, and yet, Inuit art works are showcased in almost every major art gallery in the world. It’s an extraordinary feat of creativity to be considered for such a small population, and it really lends credence to just how important the Inuit Art Centre will be for both Winnipeg and Canada.  

Inside the WAG’s vault is where the world’s largest collection of contemporary Inuit Art can be found. It is composed of nearly 13,000 objects, including some 7,500 sculptures all catalogued to represent each town and region of Arctic. The stone mediums and visual language of these sculptures varies from community to community, providing a fascinating portrait of this vast territory and its people. 

Due to a lack of exhibition space, much of this staggering collection rarely meets the public’s eye (although there is always an Inuit exhibit within the galleries that is part of a historic partnership with Government of Nunavut), while currently the WAG has around 7,500 works on loan. 


Artist rendition of the vault exhibit in the Inuit Art Centre (Michael Maltzan Architecture)

The Inuit Art Centre, once complete, will literally bring this vault to light – in a most spectacular fashion. 

“We could have continued to store this collection off-view… but instead what we’ve decided is to put our vault above ground,” said Borys. “It’s still a working vault – activity, curatorial conservation work will still take place inside the vault – but now as a visitor you will be exposed to the entire enterprise.” 

This exhibitory vault will span three stories, two above ground and one below, showcasing the majority of the WAG’s sculpture collection. On top of that, there will be what Borys promises to be “amazing exhibits” in the upper floors of the new Inuit Art Centre that will display some of the 1,900 drawings, 4,000 prints, and the hundreds of ceramics, textiles and artifacts that are part of the WAG’s contemporary Inuit collection.


Thousands of sculptures representing artists and communities across Canada's Arctic can be found in the WAG's vault (Tourism Winnipeg)

Aside from being a visual showcase, the centre will also strive to educate the public on Inuit communities, stories and artists through exhibits (that will continue to evolve with dialogue) and the architecture itself, which will constitute an environment reflective of Canada’s North.

“Michael [Maltzan, the Los Angels-based architect who designed the centre] is giving us more than just two buildings, he’s actually allowed the Inuit Art Centre to revitalize the WAG, and to get us to rethink what is our mission,” said Borys. 

Architectural features that will be part of the centre include opening up the WAG’s stone façade to expose a full two stories of its interior with glass, which will entice onlookers at one of the city’s busiest intersections (the corner of Memorial and St. Mary’s). This new vantage point to within the WAG will also serve as an impressive new entrance, with the massive new foyer also serving as an enticing event space. 

Also greeting your eye will be the world’s largest Inuit tapestry (currently being commissioned), which will wrap around a brand new theatre/auditorium area.

Ground will be broken this spring on the four-storey, $65-million Inuit Art Centre. To learn more, visit the official Inuit Art Centre website

Picasso comes back to Winnipeg

For the first time in decades, starting on May 13, visitors to Winnipeg will be able to see major works by one of the most-famous artists of the past century. Two exhibits, Picasso: Man and Beast and Picasso in Canada will provide a varied number of works from the prolific, revolutionary Spaniard whose artistic career spanned most of the 20th century.

Picasso: Man and Beast will exhibit The Vollard Suite, the National Gallery of Canada’s collection of 100 etchings and drypoints that Pablo Picasso did between 1930 and 1937. 

It represents “his most-important graphic body of work,” said Borys. “It will then [after August 13, 2017] go back to the National Gallery, go back to their vault, and probably not be seen for another decade.” 

The exhibition is brimming with eroticism and provocative images of man and beast and is an example of Picasso’s masterful adoption of printmaking. 

Picasso in Canada will showcase the artist’s works that are held in Canadian collections, including three of his 10 paintings found in our country. 

The showcase piece for crowds will be Femme assise (1927), one of Picasso’s “seated woman” paintings, this one being nearly four and-a-half feet tall, which features the artist, his son Paulo, and his wife Olga entwined as a triple portrait. 

“It’s the most-important Picasso piece in Canada,” said Borys. “It’s a tour de force.”

On top of that there will be watercolours, etchings, drawings, and more, spanning 50 years of the artist’s career.  

Canada’s 150th 

Another very cool artistic happening via the WAG taking place this summer is ART EXPRESS’D/ART EXPRIMÉ, the only major art gallery initiative selected by the Department of Canadian Heritage as a Canada 150 Signature initiative.

ART EXPRESS’D/ART EXPRIMÉ will connect communities from each of Canada’s coasts, along with 16 stops in-between, via the transformation of three 20-foot shipping containers into mobile art studios, exhibits and creative centres. Before being sent out to traverse this vast land, the shipping containers will be adorned by murals and paintings by Winnipeg’s Graffiti Art Programming Inc. and Art City Inc.

The shipping containers will start their journeys in Inuvik, St. John’s, and Alert Bay respectively, while a fourth container will be kept at The Forks, where it will be used to provide art-making workshops to the Winnipeg public. 

The ART EXPRESS’D/ART EXPRIMÉ shipping containers will all come together back in Winnipeg just in time for Nuit Blanche (September 30th), Winnipeg’s all-night celebration of the arts. 

For more on the current and upcoming exhibits at the WAG visit wag.ca.

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