Climate in focus – collecting with a system | Polarjournal
Creature on the Ice Edge, 2006, Brazilian soapstone, alabaster, H25 x W48 x L22cm
David Ruben Piqtoukun, Paulatuk, Northwest Territories, Canada. (Image: Severin Nowacki)

The beginnings of Museum Cerny’s collection date back to a collection of artworks by the Inuit, that sparked a love for this art. The result is an intensive, ongoing interest in the different forms of expression, material, of course the people, as well as the realities of life. Then numerous visits to the Arctic led not only to the expansion of the collection, but also to increasing awareness of the challenges that the people are confronted with.

Sedna caught by a Jellyfish, 2014, Steatite, barbed wire, colour, H30 x W45 x D45cm
Bill Nasogaluak, Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, Canada. (Image: Severin Nowacki)

The trips made it possible to observe the effects that climate change had over time. And so it is not surprising that the collection grew to include works of art that reflect this. This led to friendships with artists like Bill Nasogaluak, who repeatedly deals with social and environmental problems in his work. In 2015, this commitment was shown for the first time outside the museum in an exhibition at the Musée océanographique in Monaco to coincide with the Paris climate conference.

Manhole Hunter, 2012, Asphalt, metal, antler, H7.5 x W19 x D25cm
Jesse Tungilik, Iqaluit, Nunavut, Kanada. (Image: Severin Nowacki)

After Switzerland received observer status at the Arctic Circle in 2017, the engagement broadened and cooperation with Canadian Embassies in northern Europe began with an exhibition: Inuit Art creating awareness about climate change, shown at the Arctic Circle Conference in Reykjavik in 2018 and subsequently in 2019 at the Fram Center in Tromsø, Norway, during the Arctic Frontiers Conference. Later in the year this exhibition, which broke new ground, travelled to Världskulturmuseet in Gothenburg, Sweden. The exhibition’s new name: Voices from the Arctic was presented entirely in Inuktitut in collaboration with William Huffman at the West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative, who facilitated the translation. Not only did the artworks on display address the effects of climate change, but the explanatory comments by the artists offered a rare insight into the local perspectives. It was considered important to make this accessible in the original language. Booklets with translations in Northern Sami, Swedish, English and French were available to the visitors.

Umiak Family / Protective Sedna, 2004, Steatite, H46 x W13 x L33cm
Jonasie Faber, Greenland.. (Image: Severin Nowacki)

Considered a challenge by the Gothenburg Museum, the exhibition was not only well received by the public – it was by far the most successful exhibition of the year. A public survey showed that almost half of the visitors came to see the exhibition during this period. Since October 2020 and until March 13, 2021, this exhibition can now be seen in a somewhat expanded form at the Museum Cerny in Bern. It was supplemented, among other things, by a new acquisition by the museum, the sculpture “Listen” created in 2018 by Manasie Akpaliapik, acquired in 2020.

Sikusi (Iceworm) Legend, 2018, Marble, steatite, metal, H13 x W13 x L32cm
Bill Nasogaluak, Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, Canada. (Image: Museum Cerny)

The collection is constantly expanding. The themes, determined by the artists, document the critical challenges of the time. In the Museum Cerny, these works are given a home where they can convey these stories to fascinated audiences. Their message can be understood here too. Because climate change knows no language barrier.

Martin Schultz, Museum Cerny / Translation by Martha Cerny

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