It’s been two years in the making and now the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton is getting ready to pull back the curtain on changes inside and out with a “blockbuster” new exhibition.
Tom Smart, director of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, said when visitors are welcomed back into the gallery on April 2, they will be treated to the work of renowned Quebec painter Jean-Paul Riopelle, who died in 2002.
The exhibition, titled Riopelle: The Call of Northern Landscapes and Indigenous Cultures, contains 180 paintings, drawings, prints, ceremonial objects and archival documents.
“It’s only been seen in Montreal and out west in Whistler, and this is its only Eastern Canadian venue,” said Smart.
“It’s a marvellous exhibition.”
The Riopelle opening will be free to the public, with remarks from the artist’s daughter, Yseult Riopelle.
There will be several other new exhibits, including Larry Fink vs. Gary Weekes: The Boxing Portfolios, Len and Cub: a queer history, and Cathy Ross: Ministers Island in Small Pieces.
Construction on the building began just over two years ago. One of the major changes is to the 63-year-old building’s facade, expanded closer to Queen Street with a new entrance.
Fredericton gallery set to unveil $6-million renovation, Jean-Paul Riopelle exhibit on opening day, April 2. 3:43
There are a number of new spaces inside the gallery, Smart said, including a new wing dedicated to the late Harrison McCain, the Florenceville-Bristol businessman and co-founder of McCain Foods. Although the gallery reopens on April 2, the extension won’t open until the fall.
Smart said the gallery has also improved accessibility.
“The Harrison McCain Pavilion is a fully accessible building that will get people into the galleries smoothly, safely,” Smart said. “Everybody goes through the front door. Once they’re in the galleries, they’re fully accessible. We have new washrooms that are wheelchair accessible.”
Smart said he is excited about a new digital strategy that will showcase the galley’s collections online. Every work of art has been photographed in high resolution and will be on the new website that launches in a few weeks.
There is also a new education centre where the café used to be.
Shirley Blumberg of KPMB Architects was hired to design the expansion. It’s the second major renovation at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in the last five years.
The big goal was to make the institution more accessible, Smart said, and he believes people have missed the gallery.
“Judging from the comments I’ve been getting for the past two years, people … [are] looking forward to coming back and visiting their old friends here, the works of art.
“I think people are pretty keen to get back in here and be a community again in an art gallery.”
“I had to seek art out. It wasn’t easy. Here it is right in front of you. It’s incredible,” said Bourscheid about RAG’s central location by Zoom from Luxembourg recently. “It’s in a community space. It’s pretty cool.”
“I think when it becomes about the art market often it can become something very elite and something that is hard to understand,” said Bourscheid, who splits his time between Luxembourg and Vancouver as his wife, fellow artist Vanessa Brown, is from Vancouver. “I think art is for everybody. That’s the main thing.
“It’s nice that here people can just walk by and walk in.”
Bourscheid’s new show offers up his signature approach of using handmade costumes, props and crafts to look at and challenge deep-rooted cultural values and relationships.
“I usually say I work in different media,” said Bourscheid. “I work in photography, video, performance, sculpture, drawing and that often it starts with a costume and with my own body then it turns, while doing it, into something. The costume or prop itself decides where it is going.”
For the exhibition here, Bourscheid is premiering a new 45-minute, two channel video titled Agnes, which he says is a homage to the hard work of his seamstress single mother. Agnes is her middle name.
“It’s a lot about labour and housework,” said Bourscheid about the 45-minute video accompanied by a recreation of the video’s set complete with the costumes and props from the shoot.
RAG director Shaun Dacey programmed the Bourscheid show and says that for the past few years he has been watching Bourscheid develop, specifically through work with the VAG and Western Front, and was drawn to the “theatricality of his practice.”
“When speaking to Mike I was surprised to find out he had never had a solo exhibition in Vancouver and we wanted to give him the opportunity to play in our space,” said Dacey by email. “With this new project Mike engages familial memory through costume, set-building and video. I am interested in this body of work through his performance of a sort of masculine drag, exaggerating and interrogating this gender performance, as a clown and a cowboy, among other characters.”
The Chan-curated show Codes of Silence features the video artists Haitian/American Shirley Bruno, Aleesa Cohene, a Canadian based in Los Angeles, Caroline Monnet, an Indigenous artist based in Montreal, and American Cauleen Smith.
“I think we are accustomed to the voice being a mode of expression. A way of communicating identity. Who we are. But I also wanted to think of ways of communicating that was not so public-facing but kind of delving inward,” said Chan during a phone call. “For example, in Cauleen Smith’s video we see the artist making bouquets. Paying homage basically to someone who has died. So, there is this really ritualistic moment where they are just silently making flowers and we know that this is an act of mourning, but there are no words spoken.
“So maybe it is also kind of saying too that words are not necessarily enough. And inviting the public to consider and focus in on these quieter moments that are more internal and inner-facing and asking the visitors to really listen.”
Chan, who joined the RAG last spring, added that the video presentations will be complimented by art work from the gallery’s own collection.
Chan, like Bourscheid, appreciates the accessibility of the gallery and the deep community roots that have been nurtured with the help of location.
“We’re not just getting art aficionados coming to the gallery,” said Chan. “People are stopping by out of curiosity. We are very interested first and foremost in engaging our local communities, but we also hope we are presenting exciting programming that will interest a wide range of people … Any kind of engaged citizen.”