From the beginning, the now Museum Cerny has seen itself as a platform for the inhabitants and concerns of the Arctic, not as their mouthpiece. In this way, the museum has become a meeting place for visitors interested in the arts and culture of the Arctic. In 2000 when the first exhibition took place, at that time under the name Cerny Inuit Collection, three Inuit artists came to Bern: Oviloo Tunnillie (1949-2014), Kananginak Pootoogook (1935-2010) and Pakak Inuksuk (* 1956). Each of them had already achieved international fame at this point.
The sculptress Oviloo Tunnillie “forged an iconic career as a stone carver. Her work challenged Inuit stereotypes, daringly exploring a wide array of subjects, including alienation, alcoholism, animal abuse, and grief. In 1966 she sold her first piece. She carved continually from 1972 to 2012, when she stopped after being diagnosed with cancer a second time. The disease claimed her life in 2014. “(Coward Wight, Darlene: Oviloo Tunnillie, Toronto: Art Canada Institute, page 3)
Her work is represented by 10 pieces in the collection, which with their simple elegance and the beauty of the stone are quite impressive. Some of them can be admired in the permanent exhibition. In contrast to Oviloo and her works, which document the social problems of the time and are often autobiographical, Kananginak Pootoogook mainly depicts animals and life in the camp in his sculptures. He is not only known for working in stone, but also his drawings and prints. 19 of his works can be found in the collection of Museum Cerny. His Swimming Polar Bear and the Musk ox in a Stormare sculptures that show animals not statically but as part of their environment. Few artists manage to portray this in such a reduced while at the same time so effective style. Pakak Inuksuk, who has also gained fame among international audiences, comes from a completely different direction, performance, as a drummer, actor and teacher (among others, in the film Atanarjuat).
21 years have passed since the artists’ visit. Numerous other artists have come through our doors since then, enriching not only our collection, but above all our lives. And the visitors, too. These collaborations remain a central element and make an important contribution to the documentation of climate change in the circumpolar regions and to the conversation here in Switzerland.
Martin Schultz, Museum Cerny / Translation by Martha Cerny