Carleton University Art Gallery CUAG

Sanattiaqsimajut: Inuit Art from the Carleton University Art Gallery Collection

Curated by Ingo Hessel

13 September – 08 November 2009

In 1981, George Swinton bought for Carleton University its first works of Inuit art, and when Carleton University Art Gallery (CUAG) opened in 1992, Inuit art was a prominent feature of its first exhibition. The gallery’s collection, now numbering some 1600 works, is broad in scope both geographically and thematically. Its core is comprised of a large and important collection of works on paper and sculptures donated in 1992 by the American collectors Dr. Priscilla Tyler and Maree Brooks.

Smaller but significant gifts have expanded the scope of CUAG’s holdings; the R.D. Bell and Josephine Mitchell and Lowell Schoenfeld collections are particularly noteworthy. Drew and Carolle Anne Armour recently gave CUAG a major donation of sculptures and early ivories, as well as a remarkable group of drawings and prints.

Since 1992, CUAG’s collection of Inuit art has generated 44 exhibitions, many of them curated by young scholars in the field. Sanattiaqsimajut, however, is the first to provide a comprehensive overview of the collection’s breadth and depth. Curated by Ingo Hessel, author of the renowned book Inuit Art: An Introduction (1998), the exhibition surveys the full range of production by Inuit artists – from prints and drawings to sculptures and early ivories. It foregrounds the work of celebrated artists including Parr, Luke Anguhadluq, Davidialuk, John Pangnark, Tivi Etook, Pudlo Pudlat, Kenojuak, and Jessie Oonark.

Priscilla Tyler believed that art, and Inuit art in particular, is part of a larger narrative, one that she saw as directly analogous to narrative impulses in storytelling and literature. Despite their diversity of media and styles, the works presented in Sanattiaqsimajut demonstrate the recurrence of the common narrative threads that characterize Inuit art, most especially the fluid movement between the physical and spiritual realms, and the vital relationship between humans and animals.

Our challenge, as students of Inuit art, is to absorb and understand some of the vast amount of information about Inuit culture and beliefs, and community and personal histories, that Inuit artists have passed on to us.

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