The Art Gallery of Ontario continued its internationalist push Thursday as it appointed a Chinese curator with American experience to the key portfolio of modern and contemporary art. Born and raised in Shanghai, Xiaoyu Weng currently works as an associate curator at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. This summer, she will take up the role of modern and contemporary curator at the AGO in Toronto, a city she has never visited.
Her appointment is sure to raise questions for the local and national visual-art community, where the AGO’s contemporary curator wields considerable power as the person who decides which living Canadian artists might be added to one of the leading public collections in the country. Weng, who has specialized in expanding the contemporary canon to all corners of the globe, has only followed Canadian art from a distance. She’s an admirer of Janet Cardiff, whose work she has seen internationally, and such prominent Vancouver artists as Ken Lum, Ron Terada and Stan Douglas, first encountered in a grad school project she did about North American artists on the West Coast. She was also impressed by the achievements of the inaugural Toronto Biennial of Art in 2019, having herself curated the Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art in Yekaterinburg, Russia that year.
“I’m not an expert in Canadian art, but there are artists I am following closely … I’m more interested in focusing on individual practices and the perspectives these artists are bringing than in trying to label them or put them in a box, calling them Canadian art or Canadian artists,” she said in an interview. She added that she doesn’t think nationality is the first characteristic with which artists define their identity. “I’d take the same position on artists from China or anywhere else.”
Her international outlook may serve the AGO well. In announcing the appointment, chief curator Julian Cox said Weng would “help us further our goals of leading global conversations from Toronto. She will also help us put Canadian artists on the global stage and shape the presentation of our collection in dynamic new ways.” Her expansionary approaches fit with the AGO’s attempts to redefine its narrow focus on the Western canon; last November, the gallery promoted Julie Crooks into a new role curating the art of global Africa and the African diaspora.
“How do we look at issues with a perspective that isn’t limited to a Eurocentric view?” Weng asked.
Apparently not by filling the AGO’s galleries with the work of China’s global art stars – even though her Guggenheim gig involved a Chinese art initiative that brought new artists into the gallery to question audience assumptions about the region.
“I am very critical of the so-called rise of contemporary Chinese art. It’s very much compelled by the market … capital pouring in,” she said. She added it’s important to view Chinese art in its social and political setting and to consider the art of China’s neighbours in Southeast Asia.
Despite her postcolonial outlook, her appointment confirms suspicions that any ambitious Canadian art curator better get some international experience, preferably American, if they want to rise in the ranks at a big Canadian museum. The two most recent art museum directorships to come open here both went to Canadian art historians with significant American credentials. Last fall, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts repatriated Stéphane Aquin from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, while Sasha Suda, director at the National Gallery of Canada since 2019, worked at New York’s mighty Metropolitan Museum before she was appointed curator of European art at the AGO.
It was because Suda lured her AGO colleague Kitty Scott to Ottawa as chief curator that the contemporary curator job in Toronto became vacant. Weng considers Scott a close colleague, but Canadian artists may be looking for more proof of such a connection with the national scene. Scott is known as a strong advocate of Canadian artists – witness her blockbuster 2019 exhibition devoted to the work of B.C. Indigenous artist Brian Jungen.
Weng’s appointment means that three top jobs at the AGO are held by professionals who came to Canada from the U.S. AGO director Stephan Jost is an American who previously worked as director at the Honolulu Museum of Art and several smaller U.S. institutions, while Cox is a Briton who worked at museums in San Francisco, Atlanta and Los Angeles before arriving in Toronto.
Weng’s position is that the visual arts are particularly useful for discussing cross-cultural issues and, when it comes to acquiring Canadian art, she hopes to focus on marginalized artists that have not been previously collected. “How can I be an active agent in connecting the dots?” she asked. “I really see myself as bringing some new perspectives and fresh eyes, looking not only at international artists but also local artists.”
However they define themselves, Canadian artists will wait and see.
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Imaginations, creativity of Mountview students on display at Cariboo Art Beat
Creative, imaginative artwork of students from Mountview Elementary School will be on public display at the gallery of Cariboo Art Beat until April 9.
“The students of Mountview elementary were all invited to participate in an art contest,” Tiffany Jorgensen said, an artist at Cariboo Art Beat.
Each class was separately judged by three professional artists at Cariboo Art Beat, Jorgensen said, based on the students’ creativity, techniques, use of space and originality.
“It was extremely difficult to select pieces from the abundance of beautiful art presented,” she said. “There is so much talent and fantastic imaginations.”
The artist of each selected piece was given formal invitations to their art show to distribute to whomever they choose, and Jorgensen said anyone is free to view the beautiful artwork throughout until April 9.
Honoured at the show were works from local artists Ryker Hagen, Annika Nilsson, Rylie Trampleasure, Angus Shoults, Izabella Telford, Isabella Buchner, Kai Pare and more.
“Come view their wonderful pieces to get a glimpse into the minds of our creative youth,” Jorgensen said.
“It’s been so fun. The kids have come in and seen their work on display with their grandparents, parents, and they’re all so excited.”
Following up on the success of the Mountview art show, Jorgensen said more elementary schools have been invited to participate.
April will feature the works of Nesika and Big Lake, followed by Marie Sharpe and Chilcotin Road next month.
Cariboo Art Beat is located at 19 First Ave., under Caribou Ski Source for Sports’ entrance on Oliver Street.
Source:– Williams Lake Tribune – Williams Lake Tribune
Launching the conversation on Newfoundland and Labrador art history
ST. JOHN’S, N.L. —
“Future Possible: An Art History of Newfoundland and Labrador” is a book that has been a long time coming, Mireille Eagan says.
While working at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery in Prince Edward Island, Eagan curated an exhibition marking the 60th anniversary of Newfoundland and Labrador joining Confederation with Canada.
“As I was researching, I noticed that there was very little that existed in terms of the art history of this province,” she said. “There wasn’t even a Wikipedia article.”
Noticing this large gap, “Future Possible” was a book that needed to exist, she said.
As the 70th anniversary approached in 2019, Eagan, now living in St. John’s and working as curator of contemporary art at The Rooms, envisioned filling that gap.
Over two summers, The Rooms held a two-part exhibition. The first looked at the visual culture and visual narratives before the province joined Confederation and the second focused on 1949 onward, Eagan said.
“At its core, it was asking, what are the stories we tell ourselves as a province? It was looking at iconic artworks, it was looking at texts that have been written about this place, and it put these works in conversation with contemporary artworks,” Eagan said.
In the foreword to the book, chief executive officer of The Rooms Anne Chafe described it as a complement to the exhibition and a project that “does not seek to be the final say. It seeks, instead, to launch the conversation.”
History and identity
One example of that conversation between the past and the present mentioned by Eagan is the work of artist Bushra Junaid, who moved to St. John’s from Montreal as a baby. The daughter of a Jamaican mother and Nigerian father, Junaid said her experience growing up in the province in the 1970s, where she always the only Black child in the room, was not like most.
“All of my formative years, my schooling and everything, took place in St. John’s,” she said. “It’s very much shaped my current preoccupation.”
Her interest in history, identity and representation led her to making “Two Pretty Girls…,” which used an archival photograph of Caribbean sugarcane workers from 1903 with text from advertisements for sugar, molasses and rum from archived copies of The Evening Telegram collaged over the women’s clothing.
In her essay “Of Saltfish and Molasses” published in “Future Possible,” she described the work as “(allowing) me to place these women and their labour within the broader historical context of the international trade in commodities that underpinned Caribbean slavery and its afterlife.”
It’s a direct connection between Newfoundland and people in the Caribbean, a historical line not often drawn through the context of the transatlantic slave trade, but one she knows personally through the stories told by her mother, Adassa, about their ancestor, Sisa, who “as a teenager, survived the horrors of the Middle Passage, enduring the voyage from West Africa to Jamaica in the hold of a slave ship (Junaid).”
A book like “Future Possible” allows people to interpret themselves and their past, present and future, Junaid says.
“I appreciate the ways in which they really worked to make it as broad and diverse as possible,” she said. “It’s also striving to tell the Indigenous history of the place, the European settler history … and then also looking for … non-Western backgrounds such as myself. It’s enriching.”
What shapes us
St. John’s writer Lisa Moore contributed an essay called “Five Specimens from Another Time” that weaves together moments from her own life, the province’s history and current realities and the art that has inspired her over the years.
“It’s really interesting to me to see all this work of people that I’ve written about in the past and whose work influenced me, even in my writing of fiction, and then newer artists,” Moore said. “I just think that the book is a total gift.”
With such a rich cultural history ready to be written, she imagines “Future Possible” is just the first of what could be many books about art in the province now that the “ice is cracked.”
“The writers that (Eagan) has chosen to write here are also really exciting critics from all over the province, talking about all kind of different periods in art history,” she said.
As time passes, the meaning of the works in the book becomes richer, she said.
Mary Pratt’s 1974 “Cod Fillets on Tin Foil” and Scott Goudie’s 1991 “Muskrat Falls,” for instance, are two images with seemingly straightforward and simple subject matter. But any viewer looking now, who is aware of the cod moratorium and the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam, would find it difficult to see and interpret these images outside of those contexts.
“Artists, writers, filmmakers … they’re keen observers of culture and the moment that we live in,” Moore said. “They present things that are intangible like the feeling of a moment, or the culmination of social, political and esthetic powers that come together at a given time and shape us.”
“Future Possible: An Art History of Newfoundland and Labrador” is available online and in stores.
Parrott Art Gallery goes virtual to help flatten the curve – The Kingston Whig-Standard
Feeling stir crazy because of COVID and the latest lock-down? Take a virtual trip to Morocco!
On Wednesday, April 14 at 2:30 p.m., the Parrott Gallery will host Lola Reid Allin’s Armchair Traveler online presentation: “Morocco: Sea, Sand and Summit”. Allin is an accomplished photographer, pilot, writer and speaker. Travel with her through the land of dramatic contrast and hidden jewels, busy markets and medieval cities, and enjoy some virtual sun.
For more information and to register for this free online event, please visit bellevillelibrary.ca/armchair-traveller.php. The Armchair Traveller Morocco photography exhibit is also available to view through the Parrott Gallery website until mid-May.
Even though our gallery is currently closed to the public, our exhibitions are all available to view online. Sam Sakr’s show “The Housing Project” is certain to bring a smile to your face. His collection of mixed media artwork will take you to a playful land of fantastical creatures that inhabit imaginary, stylized cityscapes. If your spirit needs uplifting, you need to see to see this show. I hope that everyone will be able to view Sakr’s work both online and then in our gallery after the lock-down ends in May. Without a doubt, it will be worth the wait to see it again in-person when we re-open.
Another exhibition that you can currently visit on the Parrott Gallery website is the group show “Spring Sentiments: a Reflection of Art in Isolation”. This was a collaborative effort by the 39 artists who submitted their work, our staff who put the show together in the gallery and online, and our guest curator Jessica Turner. We are thrilled that Jessica was able to transcribe her experience with this show into a final paper for her Curatorial Studies BFA degree at OCADU.
The fact that we have had to close our doors just as this show was opening is a sad reflection of the theme as the audience must now reflect on this artwork at home, in isolation. The up-side to viewing this exhibition online is that one can read the artist statements that accompany the work and get a more in depth view of the artists’ perspectives. We encourage viewers to support our artists by sending in their comments and to vote for their favourites in the show by following the appropriate link on the webpage.
When you can’t come in to our building, the Parrott Gallery will bring the artwork to you. And then when the sun and flowers come out in May, and when it is safe to return to our gallery on the third floor of the Belleville Public Library, we hope to see you all again.
For questions about our online talk, our shows, or to purchase any of the artwork please call us at 613-968-6731 x 2040 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wendy Rayson-Kerr is the Acting Curator at the John M. Parrott Art Gallery.
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