It is what it is…and we should be proud of it!

Published May 1, 2010

straw man, 2008, by Valerie Blass

When it comes to Canadian artists and their work, we have a lot to be proud of.

“Our artists are really extraordinary and celebrated around the world…more than most Canadians realize,” Marc Mayer said at a recent 2010 exhibition program preview in Toronto. Mayer is director of the National Gallery of Canada (NGC).

To help Canadians get more familiar with the best and brightest artists working today, NGC is launching a special exhibition called It is what it is: Recent Acquisitions of New Canadian Art. The exhibition takes the pulse of contemporary art production in Canada by featuring the most innovative works by living artists all across the country.

Using a variety of media, including video as well as drawing, painting, sculpture and installation, this exhibition shows how contemporary Canadian artists are tackling social and political issues in the world.

[pullquote]The NGC is also working hard to bring more attention to the extraordinary contribution of indigenous and Inuit peoples to modern culture. Carl Beam, is a retrospective of the work of Carl Beam (1943-2005), an internationally acclaimed contemporary Canadian artist of Ojibway descent. Beam’s work survives as a significant Canadian aboriginal voice on the international art scene. Born in 1943 at M’Chigeeng (West Bay) on Manitoulin Island, Beam was sent to the Garnier Residential School in Spanish, Ont., an experience that resulted in some of the powerful imagery used in his large-scale paintings, ceramics, constructions and videotape.

In addition to its permanent and special exhibitions, the NGC makes art available to museums and art galleries across Canada. Its touring art exhibition is “one of the most ambitious in the world,” says Karen Colby-Stothart, deputy director of exhibitions and installations. She calls the NGC’s commitment to making the touring program available nationwide “a religion.”

Every year, up to 20 exhibitions are drawn from the permanent collection, meticulously packed up and taken to three or four museums or art galleries elsewhere in Canada. At the end of the year, the art is “retired” back to NGC in Ottawa.

Up to 500 pieces per year may be loaned to any gallery, said Colby-Stothart, adding that collections from other museums are occasionally featured in the road show. Ω


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