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Eager to escape the pandemic monotony, art lovers rejoice at reopening of Montreal's museums – CBC.ca

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Art, historical artifacts and the soaring spaces that contain them are often a source of solace and inspiration during turbulent times.

But for much of the pandemic, museums and galleries have been closed to the public.

This week in Quebec, for the first time since October, they have finally been allowed to reopen as part of a loosening of restrictions by Premier François Legault.

An-Lap Vo-Dignard, an art lover who works by day as an investment advisor at National Bank, is among those eager to return to the contemplative halls of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA).

“It’s been a long time,” said Vo-Dignard, a donor and fundraiser for the museum, reflecting on how the past year has changed his day-to-day life.

Although he spends his days working with numbers, he considers himself a creative person, and gained an appreciation for fine art from his Vietnamese mother, who dabbled in painting herself.

For many, spaces like the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts serve as a place of quiet contemplation. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Like so many, Vo-Dignard has been stuck in his home for much of the pandemic. He is anxious, he said, to “go to look at art and get outside your head and see beautiful things.”

The positive effect of museums has been well documented.

A scientific study released earlier this year, in fact, demonstrated that a program at the MMFA offered to seniors every Thursday improved their “well-being, quality of life, and physical health.”

And, in 2018, the museum made headlines for an innovative program that allowed doctors to prescribe patients a free day at the museum as a form of therapy.

The demand to get back in the museum is high.

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts opened its doors to the public Thursday, with a cap on attendance. Visitors must purchase their ticket online. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Stéphane Aquin, the MMFA’s director, said they have been “swamped” with inquiries this week. The museum opens its doors Thursday.

Aquin said he is thrilled to have the chance to return to in-person exhibits. Among the main attractions is a retrospective on the art of Jean-Paul Riopelle, the celebrated Quebec sculptor and painter, entitled The Call of Northern Landscapes and Indigenous Cultures.

“That’s what we are here for: to show art to visitors,” Aquin said.

The haunting images of John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea are among the offerings at the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal, another one of the city’s popular attractions. (John Akomfrah/Vertigo Sea, 2015, film still/Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal)

The experience will be slightly different: museum-goers must buy their ticket and book time slots online. There will be a limited number of people allowed in the exhibits, visitors will need to wear masks and adhere to social distancing guidelines, and the benches — a cherished place of reflection for many — have been temporarily removed.

At the McCord Museum, tickets will also only be available online — and the number of visitors capped at 328.

“We’re getting pretty used to opening and closing museums. it’s a bit sad to say, but it’s the case,” said Pascale Grignon, director of marketing, communications and visitor experience at the McCord.

The enchanting designs of Christian Dior are on display at the McCord Museum in downtown Montreal. (Valeria Cori-Manocchio/CBC)

Tickets at the McCord, which is showcasing the fashion of Christian Dior, are selling quickly as well.

“As soon as the announcement was made by Mr. Legault we already had the emails saying, how do we buy our tickets?” Grignon said.

Montreal’s Biodôme is also now open to the public, after major renovations last year, with new restrictions in place. (Valeria Cori-Manocchio/CBC)

The Ecomuseum in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue is also preparing to open, with strict measures in place. The animals themselves won’t require much in the way of adjustments, said David Rodrigue, the museum’s executive director.

“We don’t do much to prepare the animals themselves because as you know we are set up is very natural, and they can disappear if they want to,” he said.

Rodrigue added some animals such as the river otters, a playful favourite among visitors, “physically really enjoy people as well.”

Vo-Dignard said he plans to visit the MMFA as soon as he can, given the high demand and his work schedule. Over time, he said, he has become more drawn to abstract art, which evokes emotion and, often, expresses a social message.

Seeing pieces in the quiet of the museum, given the restrictions on the number of people allowed inside, he said, should allow him to see things a little differently.

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What are NFTs? Cryptocurrency technology is driving new digital art craze – CTV News

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TORONTO —
A new craze is sweeping through the art world, but it’s of solely digital work.

Using blockchain technology — which is what underpins cryptocurrency transactions like Bitcoin — to authenticate who owns the pieces, digital assets known as “non-fungible tokens,” or NFTs, are selling for millions.

An NFT is a singular, one-of-a-kind digital token that cannot be interchanged with other tokens – which makes them optimal for buying and selling art or other collectibles as they accrue value independently.

NFTs give a digital certificate of ownership to buyers to prove authentication of both the work and the purchase, but does not give buyers the original file or copyright – which is why NFTs have been labeled as a “bragging rights” purchase.

Canadian Trevor Jones, who lives in Scotland, sold more than $3 million worth of digitally-authenticated versions of his painting “Bitcoin Angel” in just seven minutes.

“It’s crazy how fast this space is moving,” Jones told CTV News. “This is the first time in history that an artist could monetize digital pieces.”

A version of the “nyan cat meme,” where a pixelated cat with the body of a Poptart flies over a rainbow, sold for US$590,000 at auction, and a 10-second video clip by digital artist “Beeple” sold for US$6.6 million.

Canadian musician Grimes recently sold US$6 million dollars worth of NFTs as well.

Even the NBA is getting in on the action – with the biggest transaction to date on Feb. 22, when a user paid US$208,000 for a video of a LeBron James slam dunk.

Auction house Christie’s has recently moved into the digital space, offering a new Beeple piece on the block. NFTs have surged in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic as more and more people purchase items digitally due to lockdowns and stay at home orders.

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Smithers Art Gallery to feature new exhibit – My Bulkley Lakes Now

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A new exhibit is being featured at the Smithers Art Gallery.

“Arterial” by Fantastic 5point0 consists of artwork from five artists along the Highway 16 corridor.

The exhibit features Lynn Cociani of Prince Rurpert, Michelle Gazely of Smithers, Mo Hamilton of Prince George, Suzo Hickey of Prince Rupert and Sarah Northcott of Smithers.

According to one of the artists Michelle Gazely, the exhibit is about the connection each of the artists have and the connection of Highway 16 to each other.

Gazely said it was an incredible experience working with different artists.

“It was so wonderful to work with people who are serious about art, to talk art, to connect, it was just an excellent experience,” she said.

She added the group of artists met a few years ago after attending an art retreat.

According to Gazely, after the retreat they would see each other twice a year and live with each other for one week to try and bounce ideas for the exhibit off of each other.

She also said she feels proud showing her artwork to her home community.

“There’s a mutual respect and love that the five of us ladies have for each other, so I feel so proud of the work that we’ve done together, it’s like an eclectic mix,” Gazely said.

She added visitors of the gallery have been enjoying the diversity of the exhibit.

Arterial will be at the Smithers Art Gallery until April 3.

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‘We are really going somewhere’: Qaumajuq Inuit art centre opening this month at the Winnipeg Art Gallery – The Globe and Mail

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Qaumajuq is the first of its kind in the world – a unique sharing space where Inuit voices are front and centre.

Lindsay Reid/Winnipeg Art Gallery

In a Prairie city, 2,000 kilometres from Iqaluit, Canada is building a monument to Inuit culture: Qaumajuq, the new Inuit art centre at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, opens to the public March 27. It will house the largest public collection of contemporary Inuit art in the world, with examples from all four regions of the Nunangat – the Inuit homeland in Canada – as well as work from other circumpolar territories; the planning has involved Inuit curators, artists and elders from the start. And yet Qaumajuq sits on the Métis homeland and traditional territories of the Cree, Dene and Dakota, a place of tall grasses and big rivers far distant from the blue ice and sharp peaks of the Nunangat.

Why Winnipeg?

“We get that question a lot,” WAG director Stephen Borys says.

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Truth is, Winnipeg has always been a cultural crossroads. With a colonial history as a fort, a Hudson’s Bay depot and a medical centre, it is the place where East meets West and the South goes North. In the 1950s, it was already a city where a Viennese art historian could start the WAG collection by buying Inuit carvings at the Bay. Today, it’s the place where the first Inuk with a PhD in art history can help launch a unique collaboration between the gallery, the government of Nunavut, the First Nations of Manitoba and the people of the North.

“Museums came out of a history of the Western [way of] knowing, documenting, classifying and colonializing: Museums were places to hold knowledge of other cultures,” said curator Heather Igloliorte, the Labrador Inuk and Concordia University art historian who advised the WAG. “It’s a lot of work to unpack how institutions function in the present. I am very proud of the work we are doing and grateful to everyone at the WAG. … We are really going somewhere.”

South-facing view of Visible Vault at Qaumajuq, designed by Michael Maltzan Architecture and associate Cibinel Architecture.

Lindsay Reid/Winnipeg Art Gallery

One of the reasons this is happening at the WAG is because the institution has a long commitment to collecting Inuit art created after 1949. It began buying seriously in the 1950s long before other Canadian public galleries, which tended to view the carvings and prints as ethnographic material best left to what was then called the Museum of Man in Ottawa. This origin story is a funny one: Ferdinand Eckhardt, the Austrian lured to Winnipeg to lead WAG in 1953, first saw Inuit sculpture in the gift shop at the Bay, located just across the street from the gallery. Why, he wondered, wasn’t his institution collecting this unique Northern art form?

The collection grew rapidly, regularly enhanced by donations from local collectors encouraged by Eckhardt’s interest, but also including several pieces he actually purchased from the Bay. By 2008, when Borys arrived on the scene, the WAG had amassed more than 13,000 works, both sculptures and prints, including many of the most recognized Cape Dorset images such as Kenojuak Ashevak’s The Enchanted Owl. (Only the archive of the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative of Cape Dorset has more items, while the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa has a larger collection of archeological material.) Meanwhile, the WAG has continued to acquire the increasingly non-traditional and unconventional work produced by contemporary Inuit artists.

Jesse Tungilik’s sealskin and beads spacesuit (2019), a collection of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) Indigenous Art Centre.

Jessica Kotierk/Winnipeg Art Gallery

With that scale of collection, overseen by curator Darlene Coward Wight, the WAG became an obvious partner for Nunavut after the establishment of the new territory in 1999. The Nunavut archives hold a collection of more than 7,000 works, all kept in storage awaiting the day when the territory can finally build an art centre of its own. In the meantime, it has lent the material to Winnipeg, where many pieces will go on public display for the very first time and will also be digitized for remote access.

Physically, many of the sculptures will be housed in the three-storey-high open vault that is the centrepiece of Qaumajuq and the new building designed by Los Angeles architect Michael Maltzan. It’s a tower of glass shelving that brings 4,500 carvings into the light, profiting from stone’s immunity to UV damage. It can be seen from the street through the glass façade that makes up the lower half of the building; the curving upper portion, clad in white granite, echoes the shape of an iceberg, and the whole wing tucks up alongside the blunt end of the modernist triangle that is the original WAG building. At night, the vault will shine like a lantern and at any time of day it stands as a symbol of the new institution’s transparency. Qaumujuq means “it is bright,” or “it is lit,” in Inuktitut.

Before Maltzan came on board, the WAG had already established an Indigenous advisory circle co-chaired by Igloliorte, who grew up in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, N.L.: Her father’s family hails from Nunatsiavut, the Inuit territory in Labrador, while her mother is a white Newfoundlander. The advisory circle has stressed several areas in which the WAG could decolonize as it built Qaumajuq; the most obvious is the use of Inuktitut and First Nations names for all the galleries, chosen by a group of 14 elders and language keepers. The front lobby and vault are called Ilavut, meaning “our relatives,” recognizing both the artists and the artworks as spiritual predecessors.

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“It’s not just lip service but making Indigenous language part of the institution,” Igloliorte said, stressing that Inuktitut names, rather than generic English descriptors, were being used by gallery staff. “What’s unique about this advisory circle was it was formed before ground was broken. … The WAG was willing to give up some power and authority to Indigenous people.”

The circle also recommended there be an Indigenous member of the WAG executive – she is Julia Lafreniere, head of Indigenous initiatives, who is Métis – and more Indigenous participation in the education department. (The nearby Canadian Museum for Human Rights got in trouble last year after it was discovered that non-Indigenous docents were telling First Nations stories to visitors.)

Left to right: Nicole Luke and Jocelyn Piirainen. Physical visitors will also be able to tour Inua, the centre’s inaugural exhibition.

Calvin Lee Joseph/Winnipeg Art Gallery

Part of Lafreniere’s job is to figure out what Qaumajuq means to the Indigenous community on Treaty One, the 1871 agreement covering southern Manitoba, a territory that is home to five First Nations and the Métis.

“It’s really important that we are praying for the artwork and welcoming it to this territory; welcoming Inuit knowledge to this territory,” Lafreniere said, adding there were many similar traditions among Indigenous peoples but that Inuit geography was very different. She pointed to the figure of Sedna, the goddess of the sea who features in Inuit creation myths and visual art, as an example of a maritime culture quite foreign to First Nations in Manitoba. Blending the various cultures, Lafreniere has been organizing a series of opening ceremonies, some virtual, some outdoor, relying on Inuit and First Nations elders for appropriate prayers, songs and dances. Until the pandemic is clear, the only Inuit who can visit Qaumajuq are the few who live in Winnipeg already or who have come south for medical care, but the WAG is offering free admission to all Indigenous people on March 22.

“My favourite thing is to bring Inuit people into the building and see their faces light up,” she said.

Physical visitors will also be able to tour Inua, the centre’s inaugural exhibition. It’s another exercise in inclusion, organized by four curators from each region of the Nunangat. From east to west, Igloliorte comes from Nunatsiavut, Asinnajaq is an artist from Nunavik in Northern Quebec; Krista Ulujuk Zawadski is the curator of Inuit art for the government of Nunavut, and Kablusiak, an Inuk artist from the West now based in Calgary, was shortlisted for the Sobey Award in 2019.

The show they have put together, featuring 100 works by artists from across the circumpolar region, includes some Inuit art from the 1960s and 1970s, but also some highly contemporary examples, including Jesse Tungilik’s sealskin spacesuit and two works by Eldred Allen, a Labrador photographer who stitches together multiple drone photos to create digitally altered landscapes.

“We want to surprise people and say how you are thinking about Inuit art is not the only way to think about Inuit art,” Igloliorte said.

The four have also included an ancestor display where each presents a work by a forbearer, recognizing the way Inuit art is often created by artistic dynasties. Igloliorte has included a caribou skin purse sewn by her grandmother, the seamstress Susannah Igloliorte.

Photo by Labrador photographer Eldred Allen, who stitches together multiple drone photos to create digitally altered landscapes.

Winnipeg Art Gallery

The bold contemporary works, many specially commissioned for the opening, will provide a powerful contrast to Ilavut, the open vault that features many of the stone carvings on loan from Nunavut.

How long will they stay there, thousands of kilometres away from home? The WAG has renewed a five-year loan agreement with Nunavut to 2025, but “I will be the first to send it back as soon as they want it,” Borys said. “It’s a wheel, and we are not the hub, but a spoke.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled the Inuit art centre Qaumajuq.

Qaumajuq, the new Inuit art centre at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, opens to the public March 27 with a limited number of free timed tickets that day. The virtual opening celebrations take place March 25 and March 26 at 6:30 p.m. CST, and can be viewed at wag.ca/opening.

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