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Winnipeg Art Gallery exhibition puts spotlight on Inuit clothing and jewelry




This beaded amauti would have been worn on special occasions. (Lenard Monkman/CBC)


Art fans will have a chance to preview some of the work that will be featured at the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Inuit art centre at a new exhibition on Inuit clothing and jewelry design.

“The amount of detail that goes into making some of the parkas and then even the smaller, finer jewelry pieces, it really is spectacular to see,” said Jocelyn Piirainen, curator of the Inuk Style exhibition.

The exhibition opened Oct. 10 and runs until May 2. The Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Inuit art centre, which unveiled its name — Qaumajuq — on Wednesday, is expected to open in 2021.

Inuk Style features work from Inuit clothing designers and jewelry makers from all across the Canadian Arctic. The items from the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s permanent collection as well as the Government of Nunavut’s Fine Arts Collection, which is on long-term loan at the gallery.

Piirainen is Inuk, from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, and is the assistant curator of Inuit Art at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

“I felt that these pieces are really quite contemporary and some of these works, I feel like they haven’t been given… enough spotlight,” said Piirainen.

Many of the pieces are considered wearable pieces of art and include hand-carved necklaces and jewelry, and a number of amautis — winter parkas worn and designed by Inuit women — some of which include intricate beading detail.


Jocelyn Piirainen is the Assistant Curator of Inuit Art at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. She pitched Inuk Style to highlight the contributions of past and present Inuit designers. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)


Piirainen said today’s Inuit designers are often paying homage to the past by fusing old techniques with modern contemporary design, creating something new.

“I’ve been noticing that with Inuit artists and some Indigenous artists, that they have mostly been influenced by a lot of the elders and the traditional kind of styles and designs, and then making it their own,” said Piirainen.

“There’s a lot of contemporary jewelry artists and contemporary seamstresses that are taking from what they know and what they’ve grown up with, in terms of design work.”

‘You know right away that it’s Inuit’

Martha Kyak is an artist and clothing designer from Pond Inlet, Nunavut, who also teaches Inuktitut and Inuit history at Nunavut Sivuniksavut college in Ottawa.

When she moved to Ottawa nearly 10 years ago, she needed to supplement her income. She started making parkas, advertised them on social media and then turned it into a business called InukChiq, a riff on the term inukshuk.

Kyak doesn’t have a piece in the Inuk Style exhibition, but has contributed an amauti which will be on display at the Qaumajuq art centre when it opens in the new year.


This Canada Goose parka was designed by Inuk seamstress Mishael Gordon. (Lenard Monkman/CBC)


When it comes to Inuit style in general, she said the designs are inspired by the northern climate.

“Since Inuit live in a cold place, there’s a lot of warm clothing,” said Kyak.

“There’s parkas and the amauti is one of the unique designs — where you carry a baby in the back, and the tail. It’s so unique and [different from] other cultures. You know right away that it’s Inuit when you see this garment.”

Kyak said contemporary Inuit clothing style is not much different than the past and that she was taught how to make clothing by her late grandmother, Letia Panipakoocho.

“If you look at old photos, you can tell how creative and innovative the Inuit were,” said Kyak.

“When I was growing up, that’s all I saw. They are the ones that inspired me, especially my grandmother who was blind. She was still able to sew and watching her sewing, that inspired me not to stop, even when there’s obstacles.”

One of the items that is on display at the Inuk Style exhibition is a parka that was part of a collaboration between Inuit seamstresses and the Canada Goose outerwear company in 2018.

Kyak said she hopes partnerships between Inuit artists and companies like Canada Goose will continue and hopes that the designs become mainstream.

“For my design in the future, I think it should be more global. Other retailers… should be buying Inuit designs or Indigenous designs,” said Kyak.

The Inuk Style exhibition will be on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery until May 2021.

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High court to decide whether Nazi art case stays in US court – The Tri-City News



WASHINGTON — Jed Leiber was an adult before he learned that his family was once part-owner of a collection of centuries-old religious artworks now said to be worth at least $250 million.

Over a steak dinner at a New York City restaurant in the 1990s he had asked his mother about his grandfather, a prominent art dealer who fled Germany after Adolf Hitler came to power. “What was grandpa most proud of in his business?” he asked.

“He was very, very proud to have acquired the Guelph Treasure, and then was forced to sell it to the Nazis,” she told him.

That conversation set Leiber, of West Hollywood, California, on a decadeslong mission to reclaim some 40 pieces of the Guelph Treasure on display in a Berlin museum. It’s a pursuit that has now landed him at the Supreme Court, in a case to be argued Monday.

For centuries, the collection, called the Welfenschatz in German, was owned by German royalty. It includes elaborate containers used to store Christian relics; small, intricate altars and ornate crosses. Many are silver or gold and decorated with gems.

In 2015, Leiber’s quest for the collection led to a lawsuit against Germany and the the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation. The state-run foundation owns the collection and runs Berlin’s Museum of Decorative Arts, where the collection is housed. Germany and the foundation asked the trial-level court to dismiss the suit, but the court declined. An appeals court also kept the suit alive.

Now, the Supreme Court, which has been hearing arguments by telephone because of the coronavirus pandemic, will weigh in. A separate case involving Hungarian Holocaust victims is being heard the same day.

At this point, the Guelph Treasure case is not about whether Leiber’s grandfather and the two other Frankfurt art dealer firms that joined to purchase the collection in 1929 were forced to sell it, a claim Germany and the foundation dispute. It’s just about whether Leiber and two other heirs of those dealers, New Mexico resident Alan Philipp and London resident Gerald Stiebel, can continue seeking the objects’ return in U.S. courts.

In a statement, Hermann Parzinger, president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, argued that the suit should be dismissed. The foundation and Germany have the Trump administration’s support.

“Our view is that Germany is the proper jurisdiction for a case which involves a sale of a collection of medieval German art by German art dealers to a German state,” Parzinger said.

The suit’s claim that the Guelph Treasure was sold under Nazi pressure was also diligently investigated in Germany, he said. The foundation found that the sale was made voluntarily and for fair market value. A German commission dedicated to investigating claims of property stolen by the Nazis agreed.

Parzinger said records “clearly show that there were long and tough negotiations on the price and that the two sides met exactly in the middle of their initial starting prices.”

The art dealers’ heirs, however, say the purchase price, 4.25 million Reichsmark, was about one-third of what the collection was worth. Under international law principles, sales of property by Jews in Nazi Germany are also presumed to have been done under pressure and therefore invalid, said the heirs’ attorney, Nicholas O’Donnell.

Leiber’s grandfather, Saemy Rosenberg, and the two other Frankfurt art dealer firms he joined with to purchase the Guelph Treasure did sell other pieces of the collection outside of Germany. But their timing was unfortunate. The Great Depression hit soon after they purchased the collection. Some of the pieces were sold to The Cleveland Museum of Art or private collectors. The Nazi-controlled state of Prussia bought the remaining pieces in 1935. The two sides disagree on whether the collection was ultimately presented to Hitler as a gift.

Leiber says his grandfather never said anything to him about the collection, though the two played chess together on Sundays from the time he was 5 to when he was 11.

“He never spoked of the war. He never spoke of what he lost. He never spoke of the horrors that he and the family experienced. … I think it was very important to him to keep moving on, to move forward,” Leiber said.

Rosenberg reestablished his art business in New York. When he died in 1971, The New York Times called him a “leading international art dealer,” noting that his clients had included oil tycoon Paul Getty, CBS Chairman William S. Paley and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In the nearly 50 years since his grandfather’s death, Leiber has had his own star-studded career. In 1992, he founded NightBird Recording Studios at the Sunset Marquis Hotel in West Hollywood, where his clients have included Madonna, U2, Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber. He’s particularly proud of his work with guitarist Jeff Beck and the late Aretha Franklin. But his grandfather was a singular influence on him.

“He’s a super-human figure in my life,” Leiber said. “And I decided that I had to do whatever it took to have returned what was taken from him.”

Jessica Gresko, The Associated Press

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Toronto is getting a breathtaking new art gallery with work from Andy Warhol – blogTO



York University is getting a new art gallery that could eventually house the school’s current collection, including works from legendary artists like Andy Warhol and Norval Morrisseau. 

The university’s Keele Campus has announced that it’s expanding its 3,000-square-foot Art Gallery of York University (AGYU) with a new building called the Joan and Martin Goldfarb Gallery.

The design proposal from Hariri Pontarini Architects, which was chosen from several submitted to the online design competition, will be located at the School of Arts, Media, Performance & Design. 

The AGYU will be expanding with a new art gallery designed by Hariri Pontarini Architects. Photo by Hariri Pontarini via York University. 

The building — which will be named after the Goldfarbs, who gifted $5 million to the gallery in October 2019 — will be home to the university’s collection of contemporary and historic art.

Included in the AGYU’s current collection of 76 pieces of artwork, donated by the Goldfarbs in the 2000s, are donations of works by Andy Warhol, Norval Morrisseau, and prominent Inuit artists like Kananginak Pootoogook. 

Though AGYU hasn’t had any permanently collection works on display up until now, the new building could have space dedicated to the permanent collection. 

Artwork will be viewable to the public over three floors and five separate wings.

The ground level will include an event space with four separate gallery areas and a xeriscape garden, which reduces water waste. 

The original AGYU, which opened in 1988, has been operating at its current location since 2006. Its collection currently includes 1,700 works ranging from prints, paintings, sculptures, films, and more. 

Lead photo by

Hariri Pontarini via York University 

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Six art exhibitions in Ontario you can visit this winter – The Globe and Mail



New York-based artist Moyra Davey’s exhibition, The Faithful, at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.


Consider the humble phragmites. Also known as European common reed, the plant is a ubiquitous sight along highways and across wetlands in Ontario – its tufted stalks so commonplace that they are almost invisible. But it is in fact a killer hiding in plain sight, an invasive species that has been wreaking havoc on Ontario’s ecosystems for decades. Thanks to COVID-19, many of us can relate more keenly to the perilous feeling of being a species under threat of invasion.

While we do everything we can to protect ourselves against that biological menace, artist Cole Swanson has been constructing a sort of temple to this one. “The Hissing Folly,” a thatched pyramid of phragmites installed in the loft space of a historic barley mill at the Visual Arts Centre of Clarington in Bowmanville until Feb. 7 weaves together multiple layers of meaning. It draws parallels with the destructive consequences of imperial ambition – the grasses entered North America following the same ocean passage as European colonizers – while also recognizing that phragmites (which derives from a Greek word meaning fence, or screen) possess value as a material for construction. With reeds reaching into the rafters, this folly – an architectural oddity that exists primarily for decoration while signifying a greater purpose – looms as a reminder that nature will always challenge humanity’s attempts to dominate the land.

The natural world and the screen meet again in Chantal Rousseau’s exhibition at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre in Kingston, on view to Dec. 6, though this time with a welcome dose of whimsy. In Tap Dancing Seagulls and Other Stories, the Kingston artist sets her detailed watercolours in motion through the internet’s favourite medium, the animated GIF. A squad of squirrels does fitness training at a frenetic pace, repeating endless sets of exercises without any hope of rest. Two irritated-looking blackbirds stake claim to a Cheezie, wiggling back and forth forever in an interminable battle for some precious neon-orange cheddar dust. At first quirky and even a bit quaint, the animal characters appear increasingly agitated and anxious the longer you look at them. Who can blame them – performing the same routine in the same small space every day is making all of us go a little loopy.

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The first Canadian artists to sit in front of a computer and decide to get creative get their dues over at McIntosh Gallery in London, where curators Adam Lauder and Mark Hayward present a landmark historical survey of first-generation computer art in Computational Arts in Canada 1967–1974, on view to Dec. 12. Western University was “one of a handful of universities across Canada to house a mainframe computer during that time,” Lauder says, so the artists who engaged with the technology were entering territory then occupied only by engineers and other specialists – not exactly the user-friendly interfaces we are now familiar with. Among highlights are dramatic, zigzagging paintings by Suzanne Duquet, who was a professor at the University of Quebec at Montreal. “She is one of the few artists that learned to code,” Lauder says. “Her paintings are based on programs she wrote herself.”

At the Art Gallery of Hamilton until Jan. 3, Rebel Opera is a retrospective exhibition covering four decades of work by pioneering artist Nora Hutchinson, who made key early contributions to feminist video art, performance and installation. Sung and spoken words feature heavily, with expressive and personal poetry recited over experimental music tracks in early autobiographical works and in later works that tackle social issues such as mental health. A teacher at the Ontario College of Art and Design, the University of Guelph, York University and the Dundas Valley School of Art, Hutchinson is revered not only for her artistic contributions but also for her role as a mentor to many in the media arts community. In Opera Around the House from 1987, which she has described as a “comedic tape about everyday life which combines the formalities of the opera format with songs about kids, dogs, cats, laundry, groceries,” she sings, “Courage comes from the word heart / Coeur, coeur, coeur.”

The Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery bravely interrogates its own city’s history of white supremacy and anti-Black racism in Black Drones in the Hive by Montreal artist Deanna Bowen, on view until Feb. 28. Opening on the 100-year anniversary of the gallery’s first exhibition by the Group of Seven, this research-intensive project acts to dismantle the myth of terra nullius espoused in the group’s work and bring visibility to the maligned narratives of Black and Indigenous survival in Canada. Bowen’s own family history is included in 1911 Anti Creek-Negro Petition, a reproduction of a 234-page document recording signatures of people opposed to letting those of mixed Black and Indigenous heritage enter Alberta – some of whom were Bowen’s ancestors. Barker Fairley, an early champion of the Group of Seven, was one signatory. In a video introduction to the exhibition, senior curator Crystal Mowry asks of today’s proliferation of digital petitions, “Who is collecting the proof of dissent? Will we be able to access that proof some time in the future?”

The question of what is worth remembering and preserving for posterity is central to New York-based artist Moyra Davey’s practice. Her exhibition The Faithful at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, on view to Jan. 3, collects 54 photographs and six films – including a new work, i confess – that commemorate the detritus of daily life and chronicle everyday activities of ordinary people. The name of the show comes from a graphic T-shirt worn by a longhaired record collector photographed in one of her signature mail art works, and pays homage to the passion we have for surrounding ourselves with objects and people we hold dear. Nearly all of her works bear the trace of physical touch – a study of marks gouged into soft copper pennies from heavy use, folds and tape remnants left from photographs sent through the postal service – and remind us of the joy of being around strangers. Most commuters probably never thought they’d miss public transportation, but spend some time with Subway Writers, a series of people scribbling in notebooks while in transit, and prepare to feel nostalgic.

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