Winnipeg Art Gallery shows 2,000 years of Inuit art | Polarjournal
Unknown artist. Two women carrying meat in a tub. 1892-1901. Ivory. Black, red, yellow coloring. String. (Photo: Winnipeg Art Gallery-Qaumajuq)

Since April 1, 2023, the Winnipeg Art Gallery-Qaumajuq (WAG) showcases the evolution of Inuit art over the past 2,000 years in a new exhibition. The nearly 400 works of art date from 200 B.C. to the present and include sculptures, drawings, clothing, prints and films. The exhibits were chosen to represent the creative expression of the indigenous people of Siberia, Alaska, Canada and Greenland living in the Arctic. The exhibition will be open until January 7, 2024.

Beautifully set, the exhibits present themselves in the bright rooms of the Winnipeg Art Gallery-Qaumajuq over the next few months. (Photo: Winnipeg Art Gallery-Qaumajuq)

The exhibition is located in the Qaumajug area, a more than 36,000-square-foot expansion of the Art Gallery of Winnipeg, which opens in March 2021. It currently houses more than 20,000 Inuit artworks, making it the largest public collection of Inuit art in the world.

Visitors are immersed in Inuit art with a stunning selection of exhibits by artists. Canadian contemporary works present creative highlights of Inuit communities in the Canadian Arctic from Nunavut, Nunavik, Nunatsiavut and the Inuvialuit Settlement Region.

The WAG houses a contemporary collection. Intensive research was necessary to find older pieces. “It was a learning experience to find out what was created in those early periods,” said curator Dr. Darlen Coward Wight. “But a lot of what we chose was really relevant to today.”

Fearsome figure (Photo: Winnipeg Art Gallery-Qaumajuq)

On display in the collection is, for example, a beautiful very early sewing or needle case, but contemporary needle cases are also in the collection. Canadian works are further divided geographically into the four Inuit regions in Canada: the Inuvialuit Settlement Region in Canada’s Northwest Territories; Canada’s eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut; Nunavik in northern Quebec; and Nunatsiavut in the Atlantic Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Left: Noah Qinuajua, attributed, Mother and Child, 1952. Stone, ivory, black plastic inlay.
Right: Davidialuk Alasua Amittu. Mythological bird, 1958. Stone. (Photos: Winnipeg Art Gallery-Qaumajuq)

But it was not only the selection of older works that was a challenge, the curator explains. Even picking out appropriate exhibits from the approximately 28,000 exhibits on contemporary and modern Canadian art was an almost scaring experience.

Darlen Coward Wight: “There are many different themes in the exhibition. It was difficult to decide on a selection. In the end, we didn’t want to focus on just a couple of artists, but narrowed it down to one or two works from a range of artists we thought were important.”

As a result, works by more than 90 contemporary artists were selected, including everyone from Annie Pootoogook and Jutai Toonoo of Nunavut to Nunavik-born artist Syollie Amitu and Inuvialuit artist Abraham Anghik Ruben.

Website: Winnipeg Art Gallery

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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